Stephen Williams has just taken over as chief inspector of construction at the Health and Safety Executive. He talks to Lisa Glancy What is your background in the industry?
I was an inspector for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link project and the QE2 bridge project, which crossed the Thames at Dartford. I was involved in drawing up the original Construction Design and Management regulations.
I have a fondness for construction ? it's an honest, straightforward industry.
Have you seen any changes over the years?
The industry has changed a lot in the 10 years since I was in it. I'm impressed. There is a better attitude to health and safety and tidier sites but I believe there is still more to be done. Looking at the causes of fatalities in construction I see that the hazards are still the same: falls from height, transport, moving objects and collapses.
What are the challenges of your new role and what do you hope to achieve? Are any targets within a timescale?
I am very keen to make sure that everybody in the industry plays their part. I want to promote the importance of getting it right first time, right from the start, with the right people involved. If you start off on the wrong foot you are constantly working to get back on track.
However good safety practices are, you cannot prevent the unexpected ? we have to make sure that we plan for that. I expect to be aware of all the key issues by Christmas.
What is your main focus?
What's important right now is finalising our revision of the CDM regulations because it will involve new ways of working.
We are working to have ou r analysis ready by the end of the year. I will also be devising a work plan for next year.
On a more general scale I want to encourage workers from new trainees to top management to challenge unsafe practice. It is only by the industry showing leadership, working in partnership and taking ownership of the management of risk that improvements will be made.
I look forward to working with the industry to achieve the challenging targets it agreed at the Construction Summit.
I really believe I can make a difference.
How many more inspectors will be taken on to cope with the extra workload brought by the Olympics?
We a re currently considering whether we need to strengthen our London teams with more inspectors.
The world will be focusing on our safety record during the construction of the 2012 Olympic sites.
We have appoin ted one of our senior managers, Brian Etheridge, to co-ordinate all the challenges brought by the Olympic projects including planning and transport issues. I am sure we will be able to find the resources to cope with the challenge.