One in five construction sites across Britain subject to enforcement action

The Health and Safety Executive has reported that nearly one in five construction sites visited across Britain has been subject to enforcement action after failing standard health and safety checks.

Between February and March 2013 the Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) carried out a total of 2,363 visits to construction sites where refurbishment or repair work was taking place. In this time 2,976 contractors were interviewed.

Out of the 2,363 sites visited, 433 sites were subjected to 631 enforcement notices for health and safety failings which put workers at risk, with 451 notices ordering that work be stopped immediately until health and safety standards on the construction site were improved.

The HSE commented that “HSE will not hesitate to use its enforcement powers against reckless employers. It is they who continue to make construction one of the most dangerous industries in which to work”.

HSE statistics show that during the period 2011/12 49 workers on construction sites were killed because of health and safety failings and 2,884 major injuries were reported.

So, what health and safety standards are construction sites supposed to comply with? Construction sites are subject to specific statutory duties to maintain health and safety standards for their workers and also general common law duties to take reasonable care for the welfare of the workers on the construction site.

The specific legislation that applies to construction sites include:

  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992
  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
  • The Work at Height Regulations 2005
  • The Provision and Use of Worker Equipment Regulations 1992
  • The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007

The above regulations seek to encourage employers to comply with the specified standards of health and safety in the legislation. If an employer fails to comply with a statutory duty then they may be liable to criminal prosecution or a claim for personal injury (if a worker on a construction site is injured because of their unreasonable failure to comply with the statutory duty). If found guilty of a criminal offence relating to health and safety, a substantial fine may be imposed.

Further to this, employers running construction sites also have common law duties to take reasonable care for the safety of their workers. An employer should provide competent employees, a safe place of work and safe materials, a safe system of work, and sufficient training to allow the employees to carry out their work in a safe manner. An unreasonable failure to maintain these standards may result in a claim for personal injury by an injured worker.