Cutting Deaths in Construction

Monday, 25th Feb '08 at 13:54

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) today warned the construction sector in Northumberland it will not tolerate poor safety standards that puts refurbishment workers at risk of dying or serious injury.

Last year 77 workers died in the construction industry in the UK and over half of these were in the refurbishment sector where the number of deaths rose by 61 per cent.

Throughout February HSE inspectors will be carrying out unannounced inspections of refurbishment sites during and out of hours across the North East to tackle poor safety standards. Working at height and good site order will be the focus of inspections and contractors targeted can expect strong enforcement action.

In May 2007 a construction firm working on a site in Northumberland was fined 6,000 plus costs after it failed to comply with two improvement notices issued by HSE following an inspection. HM Inspector of Health and Safety, Michael Brown, said: "An inspector visited the site in October 2006 and did not consider it had been kept in good order. In particular timber battens and pallets of bricks were being stored in such a manner as to cause an obstruction and there was debris in various locations causing a tripping hazard. "The inspector also found scaffolding with what appeared to be a working platform without guard rails or toe boards or other means to prevent a person from falling. These are the kinds of things we do not want to see when we are visiting sites."

He added: "It is totally unacceptable that so many lives have been lost and continue to be put at risk on construction sites, particularly within the refurbishment sector. We will continue to take firm action against rogue elements who ignore safety precautions. Sites where health and safety is taken seriously in Northumberland have nothing to fear, but we will root out those that put lives at risk."

During the inspection initiative, HSE inspectors will be looking at whether:

  • jobs that involve working at height have been identified and properly planned to ensure that appropriate precautions are in place;
  • equipment is correctly installed/assembled, inspected and maintained and used properly;
  • sites are well organised, to avoid trips and falls;
  • walkways and stairs are free from obstructions;
  • work areas are clear of unnecessary materials and waste;
  • the workforce is made aware of risk control measures.
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