Barr Construction has insisted its commitment to health and safety is absolute, despite criticism for providing a vending machine for subcontractors to purchase safety equipment.
It has emerged that Barr Construction has supplied a vending machine for workers employed through subcontractors on an unspecified site as part of a trial aimed at tackling workers having to leave site without the right safety equipment.
UCATT had warned that charging for personal protective equipment is contrary to 1992 regulations on PPE and general secretary Steve Murphy said it appeared to be “yet another instance of construction companies trying to cut corners when it comes to safety”.
However Barr rejected that criticism, when contacted by CN, and said that it provided its own workers with free PPE as “a matter of course”.
Barr Construction health and safety manager Martin Oldfield said: “On sites where subcontractors make up part of our team, the onus is on these companies to provide their own staff with suitable PPE.
“In the past, there have been rare occurrences where subcontractor operatives have arrived on site with incomplete PPE or have needed to replace substandard safety equipment.
“The PPE vending machine has been provided as part of a trial to cater for these few instances and thus remove the need to leave site to collect replacement kit.”
The contractor told CN it was up to individual workers to seek recompense for the equipment they had bought, but insisted Barr did not make any money and that it was part of a trial scheme. A spokeswoman declined to name the client at the site.
The makers of the vending machine had said that the contractor operates up to ten large scale building projects at a time and the majority of the workforce are sub contractors that are “outside corporate control”.
It added that, in order to ensure projects were not delayed, Barr provided core safety gear such as footwear, gloves, hard hats, eye and ear protection and high visibility vests to workers who did not have PPE of their own.
Mr Oldfield added: “Barr Construction insists that subcontractors provide all site operatives with appropriate safety equipment. The pilot vending initiative has been introduced as an added safety net to guarantee standard PPE is always available within the site area.”
However Mr Murphy said UCATT officials “all too frequently have to deal with companies and agencies who try to avoid their responsibility to supply the correct PPE”. He added: “The failure to supply the correct PPE compromises workers’ safety.”
UCATT warned that the move could see workers purchasing ill-fitting PPE.
Mr Murphy added: “Poorly fitting PPE is almost as dangerous as not having the correct equipment. Companies must take safety seriously and ensure that the right PPE is supplied.”