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HSE targets clients over poor sites

The Health & Safety Executive has said it will target property developers in the year ahead following its blitz on the refurbishment sector.

A shocked HSE had to shut down 300 sites out 1,100 visited because there was a “real possibility” someone could be killed or seriously injured.

Almost 400 enforcement notices were issued, with more than half of these prohibition orders telling contractors to make their sites safer before resuming work.

Stephen Williams, the regulator’s chief inspector of construction, said the Executive was looking into prosecuting 13 sites because safety standards were so bad.

Mr Williams told Construction News: “The industry should be ashamed of its performance.”

What it found during last month’s campaign has prompted it to look at property developers in the hope clients will have both the clout and wherewithal to improve safety practices.

Mr Williams said: “We’re considering targeting property developers during the next year. It’s about better segmenting and targeting those within the sector who are important. Clients are part of the process and are key players alongside designers.”

He said any campaign on property developers would include targeted high-profile inspection activity and publicity information like the recently launched ‘Shattered Lives’ campaign. The HSE is already talking to a well-known property development group about the proposed campaign.

The refurbishment sector will remain a priority in the coming year, which for the HSE starts on 1 April.

Mr Williams said: “There is no doubt in my mind that refurbishment work does present its challenges. The name says it all; refurbishment means upgrading existing buildings. You have to plan even more carefully - prepare work before working on the site.”

The industry’s most common killer - falls from height - proved to be the biggest risk on refurbishment sites. These accounted for 23 of the 77 lives lost in construction in 2006-07.

Analysis: Deadlines are no excuse for failures

By David Rogers

The results of last month’s refurbishment blitz are something to behold.

That one in three sites was shut down due to the risk of death or serious injury is an astounding figure. The outcome was a huge indictment of the industry.

It raises the question of what else is needed to make people sit up and take notice. It seems the threat of prosecution is not enough. Perhaps the conclusion to be drawn is that no one minds getting whacked by a fine.

By targeting the property sector, the HSE is showing safety in the refurbishment sector remains a priority.

But the age-old problem rears up again. Clients pay the bills and want things done yesterday. Safety gets in the way of fast delivery. But there is absolutely no excuse for 300 sites to be shut down because the HSE thought someone might be killed on them.