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HSE deals inspectors blow

The Health and Safety Executive has dashed hopes of an increase in the number of safety inspectors by saying that current levels will stay the same.

Despite continued calls for an increase in construction safety inspectors, the body’s 2008/09 business plan says the HSE will aim to maintain numbers at their current figures of 134.

HSE chair Judith Hackitt said: “With finite resources, some tough decisions are required on what we can and cannot do. To make these decisions easier, we will improve our efficiency and effectiveness, aim to recover our true regulation costs, deliver more through partnership working and reduce our overheads.”

She added: “2008/09 will be a year of change and transition for our organisation. We will also start thinking about a new strategy.

“We have seen increased injury rates in the construction industry, a continued high rate of major injury due to slipping and tripping, and a recent increase in cases of work-related stress and musculoskeletal disorders.”

But the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health has renewed its calls for an eventual doubling in the number of frontline inspectors after the release of the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform’s Strategy for Sustainable Construction.

IOSH’s construction group chairman John Lacey said it would be impossible to achieve a 10 per cent reduction in major accidents and fatalities year on year without increased funding for front-line inspectors.

Despite standing firm on the inspector issue, the HSE report says money will be put into increasing its proactive activities and increasing training.

The business plan states: “We recognise that, while we respond to failures in the workplace in a robust way, we must also be proactive and seek improvements that prevent such failures.

“We are working closely with other regulators, sharing information and knowledge, to improve effectiveness.”

Training measures will include the launch of a postgraduate diploma in occupational health and safety for inspectors and specialists.

It also said that it hoped companies would use the “corporate manslaughter legislation as a spur to companies to review their safety performance”.

The HSE added it is planning to set up a dedicated nuclear inspection team to monitor how building work is carried out on the series of nuclear power stations planned for the UK in the coming years. In its business plan for 2008/09, the HSE reveals it will look to investigate new nuclear build and increase inspections on the maintenance of ageing plant.

Government plans for nuclear

Under plans for nuclear power, the Government wants 35 per cent of peak demand electricity to come from nuclear within the next 20 years, up from about 20 per cent today.

Its plans include the construction of at least 10 new stations, which are likely to cost about £2.4 billion each.

Earlier this month, business secretary John Hutton announced the creation of an Office of Nuclear Development, within the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, to build more effective crossgovernment working on nuclear energy. The UK’s 19 nuclear power stations supply a fifth of the country’s electricity, but all except one are due to close by 2023.

Safety takes more than enforcement

By David Rogers

News that the number of frontline construction inspectors will not increase will disappoint those who argue that it is a crucial way to get the industry to reduce accidents and deaths. The HSE has long made it clear that, while acknowledging more inspectors is no bad thing, it does not want contractors to start relying on others – namely the HSE – to tell them to put their houses in order.

Relying on others – the argument runs – is one way, but it smacks of contractors waiting to be told how to do things properly.

The HSE has a point and it is about time that more clients as well as contractors took a firm lead.

But the calls from influential voices – the Work and Pensions select committee earlier this year and now the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health – keep growing.

It is unlikely they will go away.