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Building sites across UK face surprise safety crackdown

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Surprise safety checks began taking place on building sites across Britain in April after a rise in the number of deaths. In the previous 12 months 41 people have died on building sites.

Fifty people were killed and 2,298 seriously injured in 2010-2011. The figures reverse a trend that had seen fatalities fall in the previous four years.

Health and Safety Executive bosses say they are concerned about smaller refurbishment projects because more than half of all deaths take place on that type of site. Sometimes with smaller jobs, there are contractors who are not aware of health and safety responsibilities and it is very dependant on who is managing the project.

Julia Evans, Chief executive of the National Federation of Builders said in a statement: "Construction is seen as a high-risk industry and within construction, refurbishment sites are shown to have a higher rate of accidents. The National Federation of Builders works hard to promote the importance of safety by communicating those messages to small businesses and through our Stay Safe, Stay Away campaign that warns children of the dangers of building sites."

One lady had only been married for 13 weeks when her husband fell to his death on a refurbishment site. He fell just over 30 feet (9m) and his head injuries were so severe that he was pronounced dead at the site.

The health and safety inspector says there are a number of reasons why refurbishment projects are more dangerous and it depends on who is managing the project:

  • The contractors who are not aware of health and safety responsibilities
  • Lack of knowledge and/or experience
  • Intentional cost cutting
  • A momentary lapse

Sadly the latter can be enough to cause a fatal accident, even on the best managed site.

More than 3,000 sites have been visited during the “clamp-down”, though so far there is no final figure for how many prohibition and improvement notices have been issued.

By Tara Lever, personal injury team

Stephensons has a large and experienced Personal Injury team which acts for people who have been injured at work including on construction sites.