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18 November 2016

UK: site safety inspection slumps

Official safety inspections in the UK are increasingly rare in the building sector, slams a British trade unionist in an article published in the November issue of the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) newsletter.

According to Bill Lawrence, a trade union activist from the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT), ‘80% of all UK construction sites have never had an inspection’.

‘Over the past five years, 217 construction workers have been killed at work, but government austerity cuts have reduced the construction inspectorate to just 132 officials to cover 257 000 businesses employing 2.1 million workers. In the year to April 2016, they made only 9 219 inspections – a 13% fall in three years,’ he added.

Lawrence strongly criticised the recent developments of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the public body responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare.

The trade unionist anticipated that, ‘by 2019/20, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) budget will have been slashed by half in the past 10 years.’

‘Creeping commercialisation of the HSE is now being rolled out, not only in Britain but around the world. For many years, there has been international interest in learning from and adopting Britain’s health and safety system. Now, as the Government demands that the HSE meet a much larger proportion of its costs from commercial activities, it is selling its products worldwide. All this is happening at a time when it clearly cannot cope with its own national programme,’ he pointed out in his article.

For the past four years, UK businesses can be charged for HSE inspections. If, when visiting a site, the inspector identifies breaches of safety law, he will set an hourly fee of £129 (€143) for the time spent investigating, advising and taking enforcement action.

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