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How to improve refurb record

The further increase of accidents in the refurbishment sector could be avoided by taking basic precautions, says Stephen Williams

When I look at some of the changes that have been achieved in the construction industry in the last decade, I am very encouraged by the commitment of many to improving safety standards.

Construction is an extremely dynamic industry and while we must strive to maintain what has already been achieved, there are fresh challenges to protecting the safety of workers.

One of the challenges we face is improving safety standards in the refurbishment, maintenance and repair sector, which last year accounted for over half of all deaths in construction.

Last year the number of deaths in construction rose by a very disappointing 28 per cent to a total of 77 workers.

Although this figure is still lower than six years ago, worryingly it is the first time in five years that there has been a significant increase in the numbers of fatal accidents to workers. Most of these deaths were in the refurbishment sector.

Statistics show very clearly, year-on-year, that refurbishment, maintenance and repair cause more fatal accidents than the other sectors in the construction industry.

A worrying trend

This is a trend that we can spot in our statistics, particularly with activity in the refurbishment sector as vigorous and as dynamic as it is.

It is therefore, incredibly frustrating to hear reports from our inspectors that people are still not following basic safety precautions.

Keeping a site tidy is not complicated and can dramatically improve safety conditions for workers.

Take also, for example, keeping a safe means of access, so that you don’t trip, fall over and injure yourself when you are going to and from your place of work. Small changes like this can make a world of difference.

Everybody has their part to play. Whoever is responsible for a job needs to have a discussion with the contractor to plan how they are going to do the work safely.

The contractor needs to think about what he is going to do. Think about what could go wrong, and about what they are going to make sure they put in place to prevent an accident happening.

Workers on site need to co-operate with the contractor and use the correct equipment provided and not put people at risk.

My top tips would be these:

  1. Think about the work you are doing.

  2. Think about the risks that it might entail.

  3. Then put in place measures to manage those risks.

It is not rocket science. Just think about what you do before you do it.

Stephen Williams is the HSE’s chief inspector of construction