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BUILDING CONTROL TO HELP RAISE SAFETY AWARENESS

HSE and BCA sign ground-breaking agreement to improve health and safety

An agreement has today (Friday 17 September 2010) been signed by HSE and the Building Control Alliance (BCA) making a committment to work more closely together to improve health and safety standards in the construction industry.

The document sets out how HSE and building control professionals will cooperate to help and support each other e.g. in providing H&S advice to the construction industry. The agreement recoginses and distinguishes their “separate regulatory roles and responsibilities”.

The BCA represents those Building Control professionals responsible for ensuring compliance with Building Regulations, whether in Local Authorities or the private sector, and the professional bodies that accredit them.

Building Control professionals regularly visit sites and are in an excellent position to promote good health and safety practice to duty holders.

Working together to influence hard to reach small sites

Philip White, HSE Chief Inspector of Construction said after signing on behalf of HSE said:

“This agreement clearly sets out how HSE and BCA members can work more closely together. It is a further example of how everyone involved in the construction industry can spread the health and safety message, especially to the hard to reach small sites where the majority of fatal accidents take place.

Today’s agreement does not change a duty holder’s responsibility to protect workers health and safety but has created another opportunity to get potentially life saving advice to those responsible for health and safety standards on construction sites.”

The BCA is an umbrella group set up to tackle industry-wide building control issues in England and Wales. It comprises: the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Association of Building Engineers (ABE), the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), the Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors (ACAI) and Local Authority Building Control (LABC).

Diane Marshall, Group Head of Building Control at NHBC who signed the agreement as Chair of BCA said:

“Building Control professionals are ideally placed to raise awareness of health & safety issues on construction sites during the course of their inspections. This agreement creates a mechanism for Building Control professionals to discharge their professional duty of care in a simple and straightforward manner by working closely with our HSE colleagues.”

Comment

The majority of fatal injuries in construction now occur on smaller projects and involve smaller builders. It is easy to find unsafe working practices on small projects in any town or city across the UK. This agreement makes sense and for many is long overdue.

The awareness raising activity by building control professionals needs to be supported by good, clear and straightforward guidance. Smaller builders do not need textbooks or a series of patronising cartoons. Free information that can be distributed at the point of contact is essential.

The information must be short with practical images that show the hazards and what is expected in plain language. Exhortations to further risk assessment will not add value. 

Increasing the construction safety knowledge of building control professions will assist in securing their own safety and that of the construction firms with whom they come into contact.

There may well be some conflict of interest when the standards found are poor. Will the providers of building control services, paid for by the client, then inform HSE when health and safety risk is not being managed? 

The agreement may help to appease the larger responsible contractors who are increasingly concerned at what they see as disproportionate attention received from HSE.  

Whatever the problems the outcome is likely to be safer sites at the smaller end of the construction industry.   

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