HSE inspectors visited 16 sites carrying out property development and refurbishment works and ordered work to be stopped on 12.
The HSE served 12 prohibition notices and five improvement notices to the owners of the buildings and the contractors involved.
Further spot checks will follow to show that lessons have been learnt.
HSE inspector Sarah Snelling said: “We have been working with local authority officers in this area for several months and have been appalled at the willingness of building owners and their contractors to ignore basic safety precautions.”
Last year 77 workers died in the construction industry in the UK and over half of these were in the refurbishment sector, where the number of deaths rose by more than 60 per cent.