THE HEALTH and Safety Executive is to focus on plant operations, vehicles and lifting in its next blitz on building sites.
The inspections, which will take place across the East and South-east during March, will concentrate on supervision of crane operations and will be the first test of the effectiveness of new tougher guidelines on contract lifting.
In the biggest targeting of plant in recent memory, the HSE is homing in on four broad areas: having a safe site; using safe plant and vehicles; employing safe drivers and undertaking safe lifting operations.
Inspectors have warned that work will stopped and prosecution may be taken where there is serious failure to control risks or comply with the law.
Among the specific elements that will exercise contractors will be random checking of operator cards, as well as evidence that site management has verified them and provided appropriate site induction.
Plant hirers believe that it is contractors who will come in for most scrutiny.
'This will be a wake-up call for contractors. It should not be forgotten that under our Model Terms and Conditions, even the operator comes under the contractor's responsibility. We are confident that members are well aware of their responsibilities, ' said Colin Wood, Construction Plant-hire Association chief.
And the HSE is not just restricting its inspection regime to hirers and contractors but is taking in plant manufacturers and clients too.
South-east head of construction operations Philip White has written to manufacturers warning them of their duties under the 1992 Supply of Machinery Regulations to provide safe and compliant equipment.
He also alerts them to the fact that they will probably get calls from worried hirers and users seeking advice. In a letter to hirers, Mr White says: 'I urge you to review and reinforce the steps you usually take to ensure that the plant you provide is safe.'
In turn, clients are warned that under CDM regulations they are required to ensure construction does not start until the principal contractor has prepared a compliant health and safety plan.
Workplace transport is considered one of the HSE's priority areas, along with falls from height. Cutting workplace transport accidents across all industries by 5 per cent by 2004 and 10 per cent by 2010 is a major target in the HSE's Revitalising Construction campaign. The HSE says 60 per cent of the workplace transport accidents can be attributed to poor supervision.
What the inspectors are looking for
Safe Site: Availability of traffic management plan; separation of machines from pedestrians; use of high-vis clothing and control of reversing and slewing.
Safe Plant and Vehicles: maintenance of critical controls, warning devices; all-round visibility and visibility aids, such as mirrors and cctv; rollover protection and seatbelts.
Safe Driver: possession and checking of training certificates; operation of plant and vehicles in a safe manner; appropriate induction, including traffic management.
Safe Lifting Operations: Inspectors will check whether crane hire or contract lift and who appointed person and supervisor is, as well as checking for presence of method statement.
Particular attention will be paid to lifting tackle, competency of slingers and specification of outrigger support.