The safety inspector running a crackdown that has seen 62 prohibition notices served on small projects across the South-east has said ignorance is the main reason sites are being shut down.
Health and Safety Executive principal inspector Andrew Beal said the most common response given by site managers when confronted with safety failings was “I just didn’t realise”.
Inspectors served prohibition notices preventing work from continuing on almost a quarter of the 272 sites they visited across London and the South-east, part of a campaign aimed at cutting the disproportionate number of accidents that occur on small sites.
A further 25 sites with less serious safety breaches were served with improvement notices, which give the site operators at least 21 days to become compliant or appeal to an industrial tribunal.
Mr Beal said he was “disappointed but not shocked” by the high number of enforcement notices served to contractors.
On one occasion a manager prevented an HSE inspector from entering a site, stating: “You can’t come in, it’s not safe.”
The crackdown will continue until the end of this year, part of a wider scheme running until the end of 2011.
Inspectors say they prefer to offer advice, but will take enforcement action to stop unsafe work and ensure any essential improvements are made.
Mr Beale said the most common problems were unsafe electrics and a lack of competence at site management level.
The HSE this month revealed there were 42 fatal injuries to workers in construction between April 2009 and March 2010, 12 of which involved the self-employed.
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