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IMPACT OF RECESSION ON CONSTRUCTION SAFETY

Report suggests recession is putting construction safety in peril

Mactavish, has published research suggesting that the recession could be undermining recent improvements in construction safety.

The research focused on companies in the £50m to £5bn turnover bracket and covered all main parts of the sector: housebuilding, commercial property, civil engineering / public works, materials suppliers and support services. 

Key findings included:

  • Intense cost-cutting has increased risks for many. Widespread reductions in health and safety spending and site supervision resource, less pre-qualification checking and ‘suicidal’ bidding practices encouraging corner cutting have increased risk.
  • Forced diversification of work and a flight to public sector work with companies taking on unfamiliar risks such as asbestos exposure or working in derelict buildings. One group health & safety manager commented “contractors are now routinely winning bids they’re not qualified to do.”
  • Unprecedented levels of mothballing of existing construction sites also creates new risks around arson, vandalism and public safety.

Bruce Hepburn CEO said: “The recession has already had a brutal impact on the construction sector and continues to place huge stresses on companies within it. Desperate bidding for contracts is a particular concern, creating knock-on risks that are not fully realised.”

Comment: The finding of “less pre-qualification checking” will come as a surprise, and possibly a welcome relief, to those who feel pre-qual has become excessive in recent years. Indiscriminate cost-cutting on effective H&S management is a short-term, short-sighted approach. The recession will come to an end and those who take the opportunity to simplify and improve processses will be best placed to control risk and avoid regulator enforcement.

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