Nearly One in Five UK Work Sites Unsafe

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An audit of over 3,000 construction sites in the United Kingdom has turned up some sobering numbers, showing that nearly one in five has unsafe work conditions.

Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out the investigations as part of a recent blitz to uncover and put an end to unsafe work practices. Investigators visited a total of 3,237 construction sites and 4,080 contractors.

Of the 3,237 sites visited, 581 – or 18 per cent – were determined to have unsafe work conditions. In response to the findings, the HSE handed out 870 enforcement notices and went so far as to order work suspensions in 603 cases.

While the numbers represent an improvement over those found in a similar safety blitz in 2011, when 22 per cent of sites were deemed unsafe, the HSE said the overall percentage of unsafe work sites remains at an unacceptable level. This is particularly true given that many of the safety measures violated could have been corrected simply.

“Too many contractors continue to put their own or other people’s lives at risk,” said HSE chief inspector of construction Philip White.

He added the HSE would be quick to take action on companies and work crews that do need meet safety standards.

The blitz focused largely on sites where crews were performing repair, refurbishment and maintenance work. Of the 50 fatalities recorded on UK construction sites last year, 27 – or 54 per cent – occurred on sites where this sort of work was being conducted.

Inspectors also closely examined parts of sites where workers conducted what they deemed to be ‘high risk activity’ such as working at high altitudes, and kept a close eye on whether sites were kept clean and free of debris with clear access routes for workers. They looked into measures undertaken on the work sites to prevent falls from heights, prevent trips and falls due to clutter and ensure materials and waste were removed from work sites, particularly on stairs and walkways.

Because falls account for roughly 50 per cent of all construction site deaths in the UK, the HSE said safety measures to prevent them from occurring remains one of the organization’s top priorities.

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