40% of construction sites fail to meet basic standards in HSE inspection blitz

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Four in every 10 construction sites visited as part of HSE’s latest proactive inspection blitz of repair and refurbishment projects failed to meet basic standards.

One in five of the 1,748 sites inspectors visited as part of the initiative, which took place between 22 September and 17 October, were so poor they were served with enforcement notices.

While the focus of the initiative was on health risks, 42% of the enforcement notices were served due to a failure to provide adequate protections against the risk of falling from height.

Notices of contravention were sent to 691 sites. In total 313 prohibition notices were served and 235 improvement notices were issued.  

Failure to control dust accounted for 12% of the enforcement notices, insufficient welfare 12% and asbestos 10%.

A third of notices served were for issues such as management of asbestos, failure to control exposure to harmful dusts, noise and vibration and insufficient welfare.

The findings have prompted the watchdog to urge the construction industry to up its game and ensure basic health and safety measures are in place on site.


“These results show that while the majority of employers in the refurbishment sector are getting it right, a significant part of the industry is seriously failing its workers,” said HSE’s chief of construction Philip White.

“Health is often overlooked as its implications are not immediately visible, however the effects of uncontrolled exposure to deadly dusts such as asbestos and silica can be irreversible. 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.

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

Steve Murphy, the general secretary of construction union UCATT, said: “These findings are simply appalling. Time after time employers are putting workers in danger. HSE inspections only touch a tiny fraction of construction sites and most construction workers never see an HSE inspector unless a major accident has occurred.”

“HSE are uncovering basic and straightforward safety breaches. It is imperative that far greater emphasis is applied to uncovering dangerous construction practices and prosecuting the guilty. Construction employers will never improve safety unless they fear being caught.”

A two-week clamp down on the management of occupational health risks earlier in the year saw a third of inspected sites being found in material breach of the law. A total of 201 sites received notices of contravention, while HSE inspectors served 13 prohibition notices and 107 improvement notices on sites that fell below acceptable standards. 


HSE inspectors served an enforcement notice on this site, temporarily shutting it down. Photograph: HSE



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