UK construction industry warned of ‘timebomb’ from health and safety cuts

Men in highvis and hardhats

Growth in construction is strongest in London and site related deaths have doubled in the capital.

Saying that she was appalled by a 35% cut in the budget of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 2011, Donaghy called in her March 2010 report for more funding to allow it to function properly as a regulator. The report was widely accepted by the Labour government, but has since been ignored by the coalition.

Predicting that companies would cut corners and that deaths would increase, Donaghy said: “If there is an upturn, as is obviously happening in London, there is a danger that skills have been lost during the recession, and people who are insufficiently skilled will be taken on. And that’s when the deaths and accidents will start taking place.”

She added: “I do believe that if the recession is ending, the number of accidents will increase. Is it a ticking timebomb? Possibly right, yes. There is a real danger, without a well-resourced HSE, that corners will be cut.”

The findings from a freedom of information act requested from the construction workers’ union, Ucatt, showed a 7% fall in unannounced inspections of construction sites between 2011-12 and 2012-13, though the HSE said the number of inspections had risen in 2013-14 to make up for that dip.

The freedom of information request also showed a fall in improvement notices from 1,021 in 2011-12 to just 800 the following year. The number of employers being prosecuted for safety offences also fell from 456 to 410.

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