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Safety drive shows construction industry reform needed

Safety drive shows construction industry reform needed

Poor standards and dangerous practices in the construction industry are putting workers in danger, according to the Health and Safety Executive.

The organisation recently launched a nationwide campaign to visit sites where there was construction work ongoing in an attempt to improve standards.

Inspectors went to 2,606 sites and in 1,105 cases it was found that basic rules were not being adhered to - putting the lives of employees at risk.

Work at height, inadequate welfare facilities and exposure to harmful dust were among the most pressing issues highlighted by the HSE and it was left with no choice but to handout 539 prohibition notices.

These warrants give the HSE authority to stop work on any ongoing project until basic safety standards are met.

While HSE officials had known they would find a widespread safety problem in the construction industry, they were shocked with how many prohibition notices had to be issues - with around one in five sites' personnel told to down tools until their bosses had met required benchmarks.

Heather Bryant, HSE's chief inspector of construction, commented: "It is disappointing to find a significant number of sites falling below acceptable health and safety standards, where our inspectors encountered poor practice this often went hand in hand with a lack of understanding. 

"Through initiatives like this we are able to tackle underlying issues before they become established and we will continue to work with the industry in an effort to drive up standards."

Ms Bryant added managers that endanger the lives of their personnel can expect a visit from the HSE, as well as a hefty fine or - in extreme cases of neglect - a jail tern.

Last month (September 2013), the director of a Norwich giftware manufacturer was given a six-month suspended sentence and 180 hours of community service following a HSE prosecution.

Inspectors discovered Michael Lustig had failed to report a major incident to the HSE, despite the worker involved suffering a fracture in her leg that left her on sick leave for an extended period.

By Francesca Witney