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4 in 10 Work Sites Fail Safety Checks

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

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Fall hazards and other bad practices endangered workers at hundreds of building sites in a recent inspection sweep in the UK, authorities say.

Forty percent of the 1,748 sites inspected failed health and safety checks, and conditions at one in five were so poor that formal enforcement action was required on the spot, reported the Health and Safety Executive, Britain's occupational-safety agency.

Citations and Shutdowns

Poor standards and dangerous conditions were found at nearly 700 of the sites visited; more than 200 sites were shut down temporarily for dangerous practice

Bad Practice
Photos: HSE via Pinterest

HSE inspectors shut down more than 200 work sites, including this one, during the month. "Need we say anything more on the numerous issues found on this site?" the agency said.

The month-long sweep had been announced in advance as part of HSE's ninth annual Construction Initiative, aimed at reducing ill health, death and injury in the industry.

HSE inspector Sarah Hill made a "video diary" of her month during the campaign called Safersites 2014.

HSE had said it would "carry out unannounced visits to sites where refurbishment projects or repair works are underway."

Health Overlooked

Overall, the HSE found that fall hazards remained chronic and that health issues—for example, chemical, asbestos and other exposures—continued to get even less attention than safety issues.


Singled out as a rare positive example was this site, where inspectors lauded the use of a mechanized belt to carry roof tiles safely without manual handling.

"We urge industry to ensure the most basic of measures, such as use of protective equipment and dust suppression methods are put in place to help protect the future health of workers," said Phillip White, HSE's chief of construction.


A power saw was used on pavement without water suppression, respiratory protection or other protective gear, HSE noted.

“We need to continue to educate industry through initiatives like this and encourage a change in behavior on small projects where over half the industry’s fatal accidents still occur and many workers become seriously ill.”

Candid Camera

The most common hazards identified related to work at height and falls (42 percent), failure to control dust (12 percent), insufficient welfare (12 percent), and asbestos (10 percent). In addition, 35 percent of notices were served for health issues.


A visibly unsteady ladder drew criticism and citations. Fall hazards accounted for the largest number of enforcement actions during Safersites 2014.

Inspectors photographed good and bad practices for posting on Safersites 2014 Pinterest gallery, while inspector Sarah Hill made a "video diary" of her month during the campaign, called Safersites 2014.

"These results show that whilst the majority of employers in the refurbishment sector are getting it right, a significant part of the industry is seriously failing its workers," said White.


One site featured a large gap in the roof edge protection over a schoolyard full of children. "When touched, the whole structure moved substantially," HSE said.

“The inability to properly plan working at height continues to be a major issue, despite well-known safety measures being straightforward to implement.


"This worker knew he was putting himself at risk of serious injury here but carried on anyway," HSE said.

"It is just not acceptable that inspectors had to order work to stop immediately on over 200 occasions because of dangerous practices."



Tagged categories: Asbestos; Commercial contractors; Enforcement; Fall protection; Government; Health and safety; Personal protective equipment; Residential contractors

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