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It's time to deliver on old promises to improve safety

Sir,

I WOULD like to comment on your article 'Construction safety record a 'disgrace'' (Construction News, May 20).

We have read with monotonous regularity warnings by ministers and representatives of both employers and trade union leaders promising new measures on health and safety to at least bring construction on a par with the rest of industry.

I suggest - not for the first time - two measures. In 1980 I attended a TUC conference in London on construction safety. It was proposed that roving safety representatives (RSRs) be introduced so the few safety reps there were could be used to best advantage, while promoting the appointment of safety representatives where they did not exist.

It would also be more difficult for more unscrupulous employers to victimise RSRs.

The government appears to be keen on introducing RSRs after the industry has failed for 20 years to introduce a measure which has been shown to have merit after trials in the agricultural industry.

Another measure the industry promised and failed to deliver on has been an occupational health scheme, funded by the investments of the Building & Civil Engineering Holiday Scheme.

First promised in 1990, the management board of the scheme includes the usual captains of industry with their trade union counterparts, who appear to contract an acute form of work- related upper limb disorder every time an opportunity arises to vote for the allocation of funds for such matters.

While I am sure we all have our criticisms of the present government, it appears to be taking construction safety, or rather the lack of it, seriously.

The government is presently discussing workplace representation and has suggested RSRs as a possible way forward.

I certainly hope the industry grasps the proposals with more vigour and enthusiasm than it has shown in the past 20 years.

John Flanagan

Liverpool Trades Council

Health & Safety at Work Committee