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House builders and unions to tackle safety

Leading house builders have joined unions and trade bodies invited to the construction safety summit this month to tackle the spate of deaths in the sector.

Taylor Wimpey and Wates, which carries out a lot of social housing work, are among the major firms called to the event. It will be held at the Thistle Court Hotel on The Strand in central London in just over 10 days’ time.

The National House Building Council, the Federation of Master Builders, the National Federation of Builders and unions Ucatt, GMB and Unite are also due to attend the summit.

It will be hosted by the secretary of state for work and pensions, Peter Hain. Last year, deaths in the house building sector increased by 7 per cent. In all, there were 15 fatal injuries out of a total of 77 in construction in 2006-7, compared to just seven out of 60 the previous year.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “The focus of the Construction Forum on September 17 is to look at ways of preventing fatalities on construction sites, with a focus on the housing sector.

“As the most recent fatal injury statistics show, there has been an increase in fatalities within this sector and therefore invitations to take part in the forum have gone to those who are best placed to manage the health and safety risks in the housing sector.

“We continue to draw on the expertise that exists across the industry, which is why, in addition to the invited representatives from a number of companies, both big and small, we also encourage anyone else from within the sector who has an interest in this important subject to attend the forum as observers.”

But the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform confirmed that construction minister Stephen Timms will not attend.

A DBERR spokesman said: “Because we’re not the lead department on this, it will be the Department for Work and Pensions minister who heads it up.

“We’ll have a presence there but it will be at a department official level, so we’ll know what is going on.”

The figure of 77 deaths was the highest total in the construction industry for five years. There were also over 3,600 serious injuries.