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UPDATE ON WORK OF HSE CONSTRUCTION DIVISION

Report highlights Inspector activity, enforcement priorities and key risks

A report prepared for the HSE Board provides an update on the work of the Construction Division (CD) over the last 12 months and considers future priorities.

You can read the full report or review key points which we have reproduced/summarised below.

Injury and ill-health data

There have been further falls in numbers and rates of fatal, major and over 3-day injuries. This can, in part, be explained by lower levels of activity. Progress in reducing the numbers suffering ill-health remains a substantial challenge. 

  1. in 2009/10, 41 workers died as a consequence of accidents arising from construction work. This is the lowest number on record, as is the fatal accident rate of 2.0 per 100,000 workers. However, this rate is still four times the average for all industries;
  2. the latest Self-reported Work-related Illness (SWI) module of the Labour Force Survey estimated in 2008/9 that 93,000 people whose current or most recent job in the last year was in construction, suffered from an illness which was caused by or made worse by the job. This is up from 88,000 in 2007/8, although the associated prevalence rate of 3.7% is of a similar order to that for 2007/8 and previous years. The survey estimates that in 2008/9 2.4 million working days were lost due to ill-health. This compares with 0.6 million days due to workplace injury.
Major work streams

The 2010/11 plan of work focuses proactive operational activity on five work streams: Asbestos licence holders; Small construction sites; Refurbishment; Home-build; and Major projects.

Over the last 12 months ‘significant operational interventions’ include:

  • outreach worker campaign targeted at migrant construction workers in London;
  • collaborative work with other agencies (eg local authorities) to ensure refurbishment post Cumbria floods is done quickly and safely;
  • visits to sites in London using timber frame construction following two major fires. Resulted in eight enforcement notices being served and early indications that standards of fire protection are improving considerably;
  • significant increase in enforcement work on silica-dust related issues. Over 100 enforcement notices were served in 2009/10 (compared to 13 in 2008/9);
  • work to ensure safer use of tower cranes including work to improve standards of competence as well as delivery of the Notification of Conventional Tower Cranes Regulations 2010. The register is proving effective in satisfying requests from the public about the registration and inspection status of tower cranes, and is also providing a useful source of intelligence to HSE;
  • re-constituting CONIAC including refreshing its membership, broadened industry representation, establishing new working groups for health risks and the evaluation of CDM;
  • establishment of the Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP) Forum and agreement by members of the Forum to mutually recognise schemes which adopt the CDM Core Criteria for organisational competence;
  • development of project on improving procurement performance in projects where local authorities are the client;
  • taking forward a small sites strategy through the publication of customised guidance for SMEs, including a revamp of construction advice on HSE’s website and directing over 20% of field resource to small site inspection work. 
Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs

CD has been working with the Strategic Forum for Construction Plant Safety Group to produce guidance on avoiding entrapment accidents between guard-rails on MEWPs and adjacent obstructions. There is evidence of a growing number of serious and fatal accidents from this cause.

This is a controversial topic with wide differences between users and manufacturers and few identifiable specific equipment issues. Despite this, agreement was reached on good practice guidance which was published in mid July 2010.

Positive feedback from hirers of MEWPs has also been received about the value of a supply chain forum and, in particular, the involvement of contractors. As a result, the International Powered Access Federation has established a new health and safety forum on a supply chain model to challenge manufacturers into improving equipment design including considering standardisation of key controls.

In parallel with this, HSE has commissioned research into human factors causes of incidents and into the person/machine interface. The results of the research will be used to support further work on MEWP design including a possible challenge to the standard EN280. This work is receiving international attention.

Telehandlers

CD is involved in the Strategic Forum for Construction’s Plant Safety Group in preparing good practice guidance for use of telehandlers on site. The process for developing this guidance follows the same model as for quick hitches and MEWPs and has been created in response to industry need.

The guidance is expected to be published before the end of 2010 and a plan has been developed to disseminate key messages as widely as possible.

CD works in very close partnership with the Construction Plant-hire Association which chairs the Strategic Forum for Construction Plant Safety Group. By doing so, we are able to reach key parts of the supply chain relatively easily, have access to a range of expertise, can ensure workers are represented through these fora (UCATT is represented) and see guidance produced efficiently and effectively. HSE’s involvement in these fora provides authority and status to the work and avoids duplication of effort. The work of this Group reports to CONIAC.

Fire in construction

CD has revised the guidance ‘Fire in Construction’ (HSG168) in consultation with industry and other key stakeholders. The document is due to be published in the autumn. The revision follows two recent major timber frame fires in London that raised the profile of the issue.

We also contributed to a London Assembly inquiry into fire safety standards. Following delivery of two courses on fire safety for HSE inspectors in February 2010, CD’s enforcement profile on this issue increased considerably.

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