Representatives of the construction union UCATT have expressed their shock at the drop in the number of construction inspections in the North West of England, as the number of workplace deaths in the region is on the increase. The fall in the number of inspections by the Health and Safety Executive correlates closely with the clear rise in construction fatalities, highlighting just how important these inspections can be.
The reduction in the number of unannounced inspections carried out by the HSE in 2013/14 was 13% at 1192 down from 1370 and shockingly the figure for 13/14 was also below that of 11/12. The reasons for the decrease in inspections have been highlighted as the aftermath of the recession but the figures certainly show in terms of fatalities, with five deaths in 13/14 compared to two in 12/13. As the union responsible for the construction industry and the protection of its workers it is easy to see why UCATT consider this figure unacceptable and it once again highlights the need for scrupulous management and regular inspections across sites in the construction industry.
A representative of UCATT asserted that the fall in inspections was ‘deeply alarming’ and that the threat of an inspection is often a way of guaranteeing a worker’s safety is at the forefront of their manager or company owner’s mind.
The figures for the North West stand out against the rest of the UK as the overall number of inspections across the whole of England, Scotland and Wales increased by 7% from 2012/13 to 2013/14, and this is a trend which needs to be replicated in the North West and kept consistent for the future.
Now the economy suggests we are out of recession there is no reason why the HSE can’t resume their inspections with care and attention, ensuring that individual building sites are performing to the best of their ability with the highest levels of safety ensured.
Though the fatalities figures may seem small, a single death due to employer negligence is too many and the fact that numbers are increasing when they need to be falling is something safety professionals and those at the HSE should take notice of. Employers in the North West should also pay close attention and ensure their site is operating with health and safety legislation followed to the letter.
Employers have a duty of care to their employees in every industry and the North West construction industry should want to see a real change for 2014/5.