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Refurbishment site safety 'unacceptable'

Nearly 90 per cent of sites visited by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on Monday during a crackdown on refurbishment projects had to be issued with enforcement notices.

HSE inspectors said they were “dismayed” after taking action at 13 out of 15 sites in Sefton, Merseyside.

Sites in Southport, Crosby and Bootle were targeted with inspectors particularly looking at refurbishment work due to the high number of accidents in this sector.

Seven Prohibition Notices were served immediately which stopped work activity and prevented it from restarting until remedial action had been taken. Meanwhile, six Improvement Notices were issued where improvement had to be carried out within a specified period.

What the inspectors are looking for:

Jobs that involve working at height are identified and properly planned to ensure that appropriate precautions are in place

Suitable equipment is provided, correctly installed / assembled / inspected and maintained and used properly by competent individuals

Sites are well organised, walkways and stairs are free from obstructions to avoid slips, trips and falls

Work areas are clear of unnecessary materials and waste

Fire prevention is considered and adequate means of raising the alarm, suitable escape routes and fire fighting equipment is provided should a fire occur

The work force is aware of risk control measures

Adequate welfare facilities are provided

Health and Safety Executive Inspector Susan Ritchie said: 'I was dismayed to find that 13 Enforcement Notices were issued in one day when we inspected just 15 sites.

“HSE will not tolerate poor health and safety standards on construction sites. A significant number of lives are lost and others continue to be put at risk, particularly within the refurbishment sector. This is unacceptable.”

The majority of enforcement action was taken due to infringement of working at height safety rules with dangerous and untidy sites also seen as a major problem.

Ms Ritchie said: 'The inappropriate use of ladders on construction sites is happening less and less frequently, however many of the access towers and scaffolds used instead were found to be unsafe, without proper hand rails or toe boards. The risk of serious injury through slips and falls on untidy sites were also a significant concern

'There remains a lot of work to be done to improve safety standard in the construction industry in Sefton and the Health and Safety Executive are determined to drive up standards.

“Companies have a legal responsibility to protect the lives of workers and site safety should be paramount.

'HSE inspectors are committed to protecting workers by taking firm action against those who continue to flout basic health and safety regulations. This is evident in the number of Notices we served during the initiative.'.

National construction related accidents rose by 28 per cent last year, when 77 workmen were killed, with around half of these working within the refurbishment sector.

Thousands more suffered serious injuries and ill health as a result of work related accidents.