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HSE Step Up Site Visits On Small Building Firm Rule Breakers

Building site
4th September 2013

Starting on September 2nd, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) are to repeat their “unannounced” site visits they conducted in February as part of their ongoing campaign to ensure that the building sites they visit are compliant with all health and safety regulations and with the aim of “improving standards.”

According to the HSE, it tends to be the smaller sites where nearly three quarters of fatal accidents, serious injuries and compensation claims occur, and safety standards are often neglected. Of the 400 sites visited in February , a quarter failed statutory checks. The month long campaign has also been stepped up by 5 per cent to include the inspection of more ‘small sites’ ( 35 per cent).

Small sites are often reported for observed negligent actions, such as lack of roofing side barriers or failure to carry out a risk assessment and provide training when a specific task needs to be undertaken. A number of companies simply ignore HSE requests to implement the required safety changes and are repeatedly served “Prohibition” notices.

Firm ignores HSE seven times…

Just recently, a case came to court where a Kent building firm was eventually fined more than £50,000 (inc. costs) after they were found to have repeatedly broken safety regulations over the course of six months during which a total of seven visits were made by HSE. On one visit, work was immediately halted by HSE inspectors, due to the risk of workers “falling from height” and a number of electrical safety issues.

Site check plan…

In the construction sector, the most common type of workplace accident still involves slips or trips (40 per cent), and falls from a height (more than 20 per cent). However, the HSE site inspectors will be checking for a number of key health & safety issues as set out in their Construction Plan of Work 2013/2014.

Inspectors will be assessing general areas, including:

  • Work at height – fall prevention
  • Asbestos – risks during removal or disturbance
  • Welfare facilities – provision
  • Site conditions – ‘good order’
  • Respiratory risks – and adequacy of PPE use
  • Leadership – effectiveness of directors & other senior managers
  • Health risks – raising awareness and promoting knowledge
  • Contractor competence – both organisations and individuals

In addition, where specific projects are being carried out, the inspectors will be checking for related issues. Included in the specific projects are:

Specific projects

  • Fragile roofs – ensure risks associated with working on, or near, fragile materials are adequately planned and controlled.
  • Roof tile cutting (roof-valley) – ensure that dust suppression methods are employed
  • Health risks in paving and block work – ensure that the risks i.e. Noise, Hand Arm Vibration (HAVs) and silica are controlled.
  • Lifts in buildings – assess the management of, and precautions taken, during lift engineering work on construction sites.

During the February site visits HSE declared that “In many cases simple changes to working practices can make all the difference, and can even save lives. Therefore if we find evidence that workers are being unnecessarily put at risk we will take strong action…”

The same action will no doubt apply in September, especially where firm repeatedly flout the rules to save time and money, which inevitably places employees at serious risk.

Despite nearly a 10 per cent reduction in reported serious injuries from 24,726 to 22,433 between 2010/11 and 2011/12, a total of 111,164 reported non-fatal injuries and 49 fatalities were still reported. In 2011/12, around a quarter of non-fatal injuries resulted in absence from work for more than 7 days.