No Win No Fee Looms as HSE Targets Rogue Construction Sites

The Health and Safety Executive launched a campaign last month that was aimed at informing construction workers as to the dangers of exposure to silica dust, which is released by workers who cut stone, concrete or masonry on a regular basis and can cause serious lung disease. The Health and Safety Executive’s ‘Shattered Lives’ campaign has also attracted the support of Darlington College, whose teachers and students enjoy safe learning environments in the joinery, brickwork, plastering, plumbing, motor vehicle training and kitchen areas. In a new campaign designed to further reduce the number of deaths and serious no win no fee injury claims that occur in the construction industry, the Health and Safety Executive has begun an intensive inspection initiative of construction sites.

The principal aim of the initiative is to identify construction sites or firms that do not promote safe working environments for workers. It is no secret that construction is one of Britain’s most dangerous industries, which is evidenced by some startling statistics in respect to health and safety. During the 2008/2009 period, the Health and Safety Executive recorded 53 construction worker fatalities and 11,264 injuries across Britain. Furthermore, the number of personal injury claims arising from accidents on construction sites remains unacceptably high; although, many of these accident claims are likely to be a consequence of increased awareness as to the activities of personal injury solicitors, which has helped in educating construction workers in regard to their legal rights.

The intensive inspection initiative began on Monday this week and aims to focus heavily on refurbishment or roofing work. The inspections are unannounced, so the construction sites visited will be assessed without the fear of artificial measures having been implemented to give the appearance of improved safety. Health and Safety Executive inspectors will assess construction sites in a general sense but will primarily examine the safety and effectiveness of the work they undertake at height, which has been established as a major cause of accidents in the construction industry. The Health and Safety Executive will also focus on smaller construction firms, which are subject to ongoing concerns that not enough time, effort and expense are being devoted to health and safety.

The Health and Safety Executive’s Chief Inspector of Construction, Philip White, argued that something had to be done about the construction industry’s relatively poor health and safety record. Mr White said: “Each year too many construction workers are needlessly injured or killed while working on site. Whilst some sectors of the industry have made real improvements in recent years, we are really concerned about standards in the refurbishment sector, particularly on small projects”. Mr White added: “HSE does not think a lax attitude to health and safety in one of the more dangerous industries is acceptable, especially when many of the incidents are completely avoidable by taking commonsense actions and precautions”.

Last year, Health and Safety Executive inspectors visited 1,759 construction sites and 2,145 contractors in a bid to assess safety. Consequently, some 270 prohibition notices to stop dangerous work – the majority of which involved working from height – were issued by inspectors. Mr White continued: “This is the third year running we have run initiatives like this and, after these latest inspections, we hope that we can report back that we have found good practice and safely operating sites. However, if we find poor practice that is putting the lives of workers and, in some cases the public, at risk we will take action; this could include closing sites and prosecuting those responsible”.

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