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Trust culture deserves respect

AGENDA

THE DECISION by the Health and Safety Executive to cut the number of inspections it makes to sites run by major contractors is a bold one.

Over the last few years major contractors have come on leaps and bounds in adopting a zero tolerance approach to bad safety practice.

Safety programmes, like Incident and Injury Free first pioneered by Bovis, are gaining widespread use and experiences of near misses and best practice are being shared with rivals.

The HSE is right to reward this genuine top-to-bottom culture change at pioneering firms.The approach, called 'earned autonomy' in HSE circles, marks a positive shift in thinking that lifts an unnecessary burden on firms to demonstrate further an already clear commitment to safety.

As a measure it frees safety inspectors to channel scarce resources at where they are most effective.

Working closely with clients and contractors to hammer home a strong safety message at an early stage has proved very effective on the biggest jobs and is an area to be expanded.

But the real breakthrough will be a stronger focus on smaller companies.

For too long smaller contractors have chanced their hands knowing a visit from one of the country's 130 inspectors is as likely as a rebate from the Inland Revenue.

An example of what's in store comes from Plymouth.There, building control officers are telling small firms to attend free health and safety training under the Working Well Together programme.

At the same time inspections are being stepped up with warnings that a hard line will be taken against firms failing to take action.

This carrot and stick approach is a real step in the right direction.

But major contractors must continue to respect the trust they have earned by policing all their sites effectively.