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HSE blitzing campaign flawed, says UCATT

The Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) has dismissed the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) series of inspections of refurbishment sites as little more than “sticking plaster”.


Earlier this month, the HSE said its inspectors would spend February examining 1000 sites throughout the UK in order to see whether contractors were paying attention to the health and safety regulations governing working at height and maintaining good site order.


The health and safety watchdog said it would penalise those engaging in poor practice.


However, John Scott, UCATT regional secretary, questioned the HSE’s wisdom of publicising its intentions. “All safety inspections are to be welcomed,” he said. “However the general public should not be fooled, this is no more than a very short-term sticking plaster. You do not increase long-term site safety by making a pre-announced one-off inspection.”


UCATT said it has been calling on the HSE to embark on year-long site inspections, as opposed to one that was focused on one month of the year. The union argues that if site inspections are carried out, they should unannounced, “rather than allowing companies to temporarily improve their sites before inspectors are present”.


UCATT said similar exercises in the past had little impact on safety. “Despite companies being given advance warnings, up to 30 per cent of sites are so unsafe that they have been issued with immediate improvement or prohibition orders”.


Last year, 77 workers died on UK construction sites. Over half of these (39 per cent) occurred in the refurbishment sector where the number of deaths rose by 61 per cent, according to figures produced by the HSE.