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    CONSTRUCTION FATALITIES INQUIRY

    Government inquiry into ‘underlying causes’ of construction deaths

    The Department for Work and Pensions Secretary of State, James Purnell, has appointed the independent Chair of an inquiry into the underlying causes of construction sector workplace deaths.

    Mr Purnell said “The construction industry is one of the most dangerous sectors in the country – over 2,800 people have died from injuries they received as a result of construction work in the past 25 years. The high number of fatalities in construction sector continue to be of particular concern to us which is why I have asked Rita Donaghy to Chair the inquiry”

    Construction union UCATT have pledged to play a full and active role in the inquiry despite having some reservations about the appointment of Rita Donaghy as the inquiry Chair. Alan Ritchie General Secretary of UCATT, said: “It is our duty to ensure that Rita Donaghy is fully up to speed with all the different factors which reduce safety in the construction industry.”

    Independent academic peer reviewers with detailed knowledge of the industry will be involved and a report presented to Ministers in 2009. The inquiry will be undertaken in three phases:

    • Review of the existing understanding of construction fatalities;
    • Analysis of underlying causes, including factors outside the H&S system and; 
    • Report to Ministers and the HSE Board.

    Comment: The number/rate of construction worker fatalities were the lowest on record in 2005/06 (59/3.0). These measures rose sharply in 2006/07 (77/3.7) but fell again in 2007/08 (72/3.4). We are aware of 36 construction worker deaths in the current year that ends on 31 March 2009.

    Since 2006 there have been a number of high profile fatal incidents involving tower cranes, scaffold and excavation collapses, lifting operations and mobile plant. The inquiry is to be welcomed if it provides a comprehensive analysis of fatalities across all sectors of the industry that the industry and HSE can use to target efforts where they might have most impact.

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