Unsafe sites targeted in crackdown

UNSAFE construction sites are being targeted in a month-long inspection initiative after 29 workers were injured in Wigan last year.

Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are visiting sites across the North West in a bid to reduce deaths and injuries in one of Britain’s most dangerous industries.

The latest figures show that, during 2009/10, eight workers died while working in construction in the region and there were more than 1,000 injuries.

Half of the fatalities occurred during refurbishment, repair and maintenance activities, which will be the main focus of the latest inspections taking place up until Friday 11 March.

Inspectors will make unannounced visits to sites to ensure that work is being managed safely, sites are in good order, and the risk of exposure to asbestos is being managed.

During a similar month-long initiative last year, 100 of the 343 sites inspectors visited in the North West failed safety inspections. A total of 144 prohibition notices were issued stopping work activities immediately, with more than 40 per cent relating to working at height.

Wigan fared worse than most with workers ordered to down tools after potentially lethal hazards such as badly put-up scaffolding and excavations which could have collapsed on them were discovered.

Wayne Crumpton, HSE Principal Inspector for Construction, said: “This will be the fifth year that we have run the inspection initiative and we expect that they’ll be examples of both good and bad practice – those where employers are taking all the measures they can to protect their workers, and those where safety is way down the list of priorities.

“A lax attitude to health and safety in one of Britain’s more dangerous industries is not acceptable, especially when many of the incidents are completely avoidable by taking common sense actions and precautions.

“We will not hesitate to take action if we find poor practice that is putting the lives of workers at risk.”

This year, as part of ensuring risks from asbestos are properly managed, HSE will be checking that asbestos surveys have been carried out. Many workers believe that, because asbestos has been banned, it is no longer a threat to them. But premises built or refurbished before 2000 could still contain asbestos.