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Safety index sparks controversy


Sir, The 'safety index' published in your February 23 edition is a misleading way to link safety to the financial performance of an organisation You claim to have created a benchmark for the construction sector to enable the organisations to improve their performance or to be 'named and shamed', yet it will be almost impossible to show any kind of reasonable improvement.

If any of the companies on your list improves its safety performance and its annual turnover remains the same next year, the index you have created will remain the same unless the enforcement notices against them were issued five years ago.

If their annual turnover is less than this year, they will show an even lower score and according to your index this means their safety performance will have become worse.

Likewise if a company received most of the enforcements five years ago, it is going to show a significant improvement when next year's data is published as these enforcements drop off their data, whether it has improved its safety in the meant ime or not.

You have taken the annual turnover and then divided it by five years of data, so it really will be five years from now before we can look at this index to see if the organisations listed have improved or not.

Surely Construction News could have used one of the existing measuring systems such as injury frequency or incident rates that have been tried and tested?

This index has just created yet another set of confusing data when what we need is meaningful and sensible representation of what the industry's safety record is.

Peter Walker CFIOSH Health and safety manager British Constructional Steel Association Sir, You describe your 'safety index' (February 23) as the result of a 'ground-breaking' survey. I would describe it as a flawed piece of journalism that seriously misrepresents the industry's improving health and safety performance.

Because the survey results appear to be the total number of notices served over a fiveyear period, they do not show the significant improvements in performance year-on-year.

This undermines all the good work that has been done.

Major Contractors Group member companies regularly monitor their own performance and have been consistently delivering year-on-year improvements in the accident statistics.

You also appear to be compar ing apples with pears.

For example, it is not clear to me whether some of the company turnover figures reflect only UK businesses. And the contractors featured are engaged in a wide variety of different activities.

The Health and Safety Executive has tended to target large construction sites in the big cities in its enforcement activities, despite the fact that the majority of fatal accidents happen elsewhere in the industry.

No sensible person would therefore draw any conclusions f rom such f lawed data.

MCG supports any effort to improve the industry's health and safety performance but, rather than make it up as you go along, consult some health and safety professionals and establish robust benchmarking data.

Stephen Ratcliffe Director Major Contractors Group London SW1 In publishing its safety index Construction News was aware that it was opening up a potentially controversial debate on a hugely important subject.

As such we welcome correspondence from both the BCSA and MCG. We will use these views to develop the index further in 2007.

In response to claims that by surveying the total number of notices over five years the index failed to recognise the improvements made by the industry over that period, I would point out that this was never the aim of the survey. The index was intended to give a snapshot of performance over the five years for which the Health and Safety Executive holds data. However, in 2007 we hope to break out data for each year to show whe re improvements (or declines) in safety performance have occurred.

The enforcement and fines data used to create the table was chosen as it is the only safety data for individual companies that is in the public domain and independently verified.

At the end of the day each prohibition notice represents a potential fatality or serious injury prevented.

If recording this information on an annual basis helps to reduce their numbers in future, then the safety index will have done its job.

The Editor