UK Construction Safety Blitz Found Widespread Problems

Twenty percent of the sites visited by inspectors were substandard. Eleven sites were so poor that prosecution is being considered, the Health and Safety Executive says.

A March 2009 construction safety blitz in the United Kingdom sent inspectors to 1,759 sites and involved a total of 2,145 contractors. The results weren't encouraging: 265 Prohibition Notices were filed about work being done at heights, and 20 percent of all sites visited were judged to be operating "below the acceptable standard," causing the inspectors to step in with enforcement notices on the spot, the Health and Safety Executive regulatory agency reports.

HSE gave this account of the blitz's results:

  • 1,759sites and 2,145 contractors were inspected
  • 265 Prohibition Notices on work at height issued
  • 17 Improvement Notices on work at height issued
  • 11 Prohibition Notices on good order were issued
  • 12 Improvement Notices on good order issued
  • 20 Prohibition Notices in relation to asbestos removal issued
  • 16 Improvement Notices in relation to asbestos removal issued
  • 150 Notices issued on other serious areas of concern
  • In 11 cases, inspectors believed the situation on site to be so poor that prosecution is being considered.

The enforcement notices either ordered an immediate stop to the work or activity on site (PNs) or required improvements to be made within a specified time (INs). About one in every six sites received a PN for failing to address fall protection risks, which is the leading cause of serious and fatal injuries on British construction sites.

Asbestos is the leading cause of work-related deaths in the UK, and HSE inspectors served nearly 40 enforcement notices related to asbestos removal during the blitz. "It is essential to find out whether refurbishment work is likely to disturb asbestos either from checking existing records (such as the client’s survey, asbestos plan, or register) or commissioning a suitable survey before any construction work starts," according to HSD. "It is good practice to include the need to survey asbestos and protect or remove it in the initial project cost and program."

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