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Hain to hold safety talks

The Government is planning to hold talks with representatives from the refurbishment and house building sectors in an effort to stem the rising numbers of fatalities afflicting the construction industry. Peter Hain, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said he would be inviting key industry figures to a forum in September to discuss ways in which the sector could improve its health and safety record. The initiative, announced yesterday, came a day before the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that between 2006 and 2007 deaths in the sector soared 28 per cent to reach a five-year high of 77. “Any rise in fatalities is not only shocking, it is completely unacceptable. It is vital that everyone involved in the construction industry puts health and safety first, everyone from clients to employers, designers to suppliers, large construction firms right down to the smallest builders,” Mr Hain said. “We have a seen a significant rise in deaths within the housing and refurbishment sectors and I am calling together clients, contractors, trade unions, designers, suppliers and others for a special forum in September to try and crack the problems in these areas.” He said he had asked the Health and Safety Commission and Executive to redouble their efforts in driving improvements within the industry. “With the Prime Minister’s commitment to build three million new homes over the next few years and large scale developments such as the Olympics, the industry and Government must work together to do all we can to ensure the health and safety of construction workers is put first,” he added. The Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) welcomed the talks. “Peter Hain’s commitment to construction safety is excellent news. Bad bosses who allow their workers to be killed or maimed will be brought to book,” said Alan Ritchie, UCATT director-general. “It is a stain on the construction industry that so many building workers are fatally injured.”