4 in 10 building sites fail HSE guidelines in random safety checks

October 23, 2013

Basic safety standards on 1,105 building sites (42%) visited by the HSE in September exposed workers to unnecessary risk, according to its newly-published “Safer Sites” report.

The results have been described as “disappointing” by Heather Bryant, Chief Inspector of Construction for the Health and Safety Executive. Looking at the figures in the report, some would argue that this is an understatement.

Much of the feedback suggested a lack of understanding of basic HSE guidelines by site managers rather than a total disregard for the law.

Nonetheless, Bryant reminded site bosses culpable of unnecessarily exposing workers to personal injury that “those who recklessly endanger the health and lives of their workforce can expect to face tough consequences.

HSE Guidelines apply to refurbishments as well as New Builds

The numbers are quite simply disturbing. Especially given the nature of the building sites that inspectors called upon.

These results are from sites where repair or refurbs were being undertaken, not new build construction sites.

The scope of tasks the inspectors dropped in to check were:

  • working at height safely, including planning and precautionary measures
  • the installation and assembly of equipment, its maintenance and inspection
  • harmful dust exposure was controlled and monitored
  • accessibility and organisation of building sites were hazard- and obstruction-free
  • adequate welfare and disposal facilities for waste materials were satisfactory

Can construction workers circumvent HSE guidelines for smaller contracts?

HSE guidelines exist for workers’ protection, irrespective of the size of job in hand.

Even with simple home or business refurbishments, similar hazards can be prevalent to those found on large construction sites.

The three most common oversights found on the 2,607 sites visited in total in September were:

  • inadequate welfare facilities
  • exposure to harmful dust
  • lack of protection whilst working at height

Overall, the inspectors’ findings led to:

  • 644 sites having enforcement action taken to protect workers from personal injury
  • 539 prohibition notices being served, stopping dangerous activities from continuing immediately
  • 414 improvement notices issued, subject to revisitation from the HSE inspectorate

Is this the end of the unannounced site visits?

Bryant concluded her summary of the safety report’s findings by underlining the HSE’s desire to tackle underlying issues through “initiatives like this”.

This would strongly suggest that there are more to come. With failure numbers so high and workers so exposed to personal injury, there is a quite obvious need for education.

The hope is that by making random calls to building sites, new generations of site workers can adopt basic codes of ethics into existing working practises.

Despite the HSE erring on the side of lack of understanding, there will always be “old school” bosses who go for the quick fix.

If you believe you have suffered a personal injury due to similar malpractices to those listed above, you should contact us today.

Site bosses who continue to flout the law need to be made aware that their lack of understanding of Health and Safety Guidelines can and do endanger workers’ lives.

Even if you think your personal injury is a minor claim, you may be doing your boss and fellow workers a favour in the long run.