HSE safety spot checks discovered almost half of refurbishment construction projects in North East London were failing to meet even basic health and safety requirements.

A day-long inspection initiative by the HSE last week (3 July) saw a small team of Inspectors visit 22 construction sites across North Hackney and South Tottenham, Haringey.

The Construction Initiative was organised by HSE as a result of local intelligence gathered by Inspectors on the ground that there was a significant number of small refurbishment projects in the area and also from discussions with local authority building control officers.

Enforcement action had to be taken at nine of those sites, with six Prohibition Notices served requiring dangerous practices to stop immediately, and six Improvement Notices served requiring safety improvements to be made. One site was completely closed down due to exceptionally hazardous conditions.

Five of the Prohibition Notices served related to unsafe work at height. Training and welfare concerns accounted for the Improvement Notices.

Mike Williams, Principal Inspector for HSE’s construction division in North and East London, said:

“Construction remains one of Britain’s most dangerous industries and fatal incidents across London have shown how devastating they can be.

“We are very concerned at the number of small sites that are failing to take the most basic precautions to protect workers and members of the public. Good health and safety on construction sites is a legal requirement and we will continue to clamp down on dangerous practices or poor standards until the message gets through.

“Contractors must properly plan their work and protect their workers from risks such as falls from height or structures collapsing.”

Common issues found during the inspections were:

  • Basic precautions were missing, such as edge protection to prevent falls from height.
  • Work was not properly planned.
  • Poorly trained site managers.
  • Inadequate welfare facilities for workers.

Provisional figures for 2011/12 published last week by HSE revealed there were 49 fatal injuries to construction workers recorded compared with 50 deaths in 2010/11.

Comments Simon Toseland, Head of Health and Safety, Workplace Law:

“Construction still has the worst safety record compared to all other sectors taking 49 lives, just one less than last year, not the reduction the HSE would have liked to have seen.”