The Health and Safety Executive has found “dangerous practices” at almost one in two refurbishment sites visited as part of its latest month-long inspection drive.
Overall, 40 per cent of construction sites failed HSE spot-checks, with the most common issues relating to work at height and falls, failure to control dust, insufficient welfare and asbestos.
The HSE said “unacceptable conditions and dangerous practices” were found at nearly half of the 1,748 repair and refurbishment sites visited, with formal enforcement action taken at one in five sites.
It issued 313 prohibition notices, which require work to stop immediately, and 235 improvement notices, which specify that remedial action must be taken within a given time period.
In total, 42 per cent of notices related to failure to provide basic safety measures for people working at height, and 35 per cent related to health issues, including asbestos, dust, noise, vibration and welfare.
HSE chief of construction Philip White said “a significant part of the industry is seriously failing its workers”.
He said: “The inability to properly plan working at height continues to be a major issue, despite well-known safety measures being straightforward to implement.
“It is just not acceptable that Inspectors had to order work to stop immediately on over 200 occasions because of dangerous practices.
“We also find health is often overlooked as its implications are not immediately visible, however the effects of uncontrolled exposure to deadly dusts such as asbestos and silica can be irreversible.”
Mr White urged the industry to ensure protective equipment and dust suppression measures were put in place to protect workers.
He added: “We need to continue to educate industry through initiatives like this and encourage a change in behaviour on small projects where over half the industry’s fatal accidents still occur and many workers become seriously ill.”
Ucatt general secretary Steve Murphy said the findings from the inspection drive were “appalling”.
He said: “The HSE are uncovering basic and straightforward safety breaches. It is imperative that far greater emphasis is applied to uncovering dangerous construction practices and prosecuting the guilty.
“Construction employers will never improve safety unless they fear being caught.”