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HSE targets small sites, refurb and R&M projects in site inspection drive

Exclusive: Health and Safety Executive construction chief Philip White has told Construction News the HSE is targeting around 3,000 construction sites for its annual inspection drive, focusing on small sites and problem sub-sectors.

Speaking to Construction News ahead of the drive’s launch to the wider media, Mr White said this year’s effort would be “predominantly aimed at the refurbishment, repair and maintenance projects”, as well as falls from height, fragile materials and head protection. Half of all fatal accidents occur in these sectors.

Mr White said the drive, which will last for a month, will look mainly at smaller projects but also larger refurbishment projects.

“We won’t hesitate to take action if we find poor or unsafe practices that are endangering not just workers but also members of the public,” he said.

The annual month-long site inspection drive has now been running for seven years, and last year involved the inspection of 3,237 sites and 4,080 contractors.

Sites that were found to have practices that put workers at risk amounted to 581, with 870 enforcement notices issued and 603 sites being stopped altogether.

This will be the first such drive to take place under the new Fees for Intervention regime, which charges contractors found to be in breach of safety rules at a rate of £124 per hour for the costs of investigation.

Mr White stressed that inspectors did not have targets for cost recovery. “We’re not going out generating money; we’re dealing with the breaches in the law as we find them,” he said.

“If they find there’s material breach on that site, if it’s very serious, an enforcement notice will be served and that’s a matter that’s chargeable.”

Invoices for Fees for Intervention charges went out late in January for the first three months of the scheme.

Construction companies are likely to bear the brunt of the cost, as the industry takes up a disproportionate amount of HSE resources.

“Fifty per cent of our visits are done by the construction division,” Mr White said. “Construction’s going to generate a larger amount of cash not because it’s easy meat but because it’s a higher-risk industry.”

Last year there were 49 construction fatalities, and Mr White said the industry looked like following a similar trend this year.

“Over the years, we’ve seen a very slow and incremental improvement,” he said. “Hopefully we can see that again.”

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