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UPDATE ON HSE REGULATION OF CONSTRUCTION SECTOR

Health risks are a priority and inspection charging (FFI) will present a ‘challenge’

The HSE Board has recently (22 August) considered an update on HSE’s regulation of the construction industry against the background of recession in the construction industry.

The Board heard that progress in reducing injuries and ill-health arising from construction work “remains mixed”. In summary:

  • Safety – provisional number of fatal injuries to workers in 2011/12, is 49, this equates to a rate of 2.3 per 100,000 workers. The corresponding figures for 2010/11 are 50 (2.3). Both numbers and rates of major injuries fell to their lowest on record in 2010/11.
  • Health – the Labour Force Survey figures indicate a reduction in the number of people whose current or most recent job was in construction and who suffered from an illness which was caused or made worse by their job. The survey also estimated that, of the 2.3m working days lost due to construction-related ill-health or injury, three quarters were due to ill-health.
  • Cancer– the Burden of Occupational Cancer research shows that construction work is the main cause of occupational cancer deaths. The primary agent/occupations being asbestos and respirable crystalline silica.

The report outlines how the HSE Construction Division is working to deliver a plan of work whose central objectives are “ownership by the industry, leadership from senior industry figures and partnership working”.

Fee for Intervention (FFI)

The HSE Construction Division is engaged in developing the arrangements to implement fee for intervention (FFI) through its involvement in ‘shadow running’. The report states that:

“FFI presents particular challenges in the construction industry due to the presence of multiple dutyholders.

Complex procurement arrangements, together with the specifically-defined dutyholder roles in Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM 2007) often means a number of duty holders potentially being in material breach for the same set of circumstances.

Guidance is being developed to assist Inspectors apply cost recovery in a sensible, practical manner, in a way which is fair to all duty holders and meets the requirements of the Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2012.”

Comment

It will be interesting to see the FFI guidance to HSE Construction Inspectors when it is published. This proposed guidance appears to be in addition to the provisional guidance covering all sectors.

Some commentators are reported to “fear that FFI is a route to ‘encourage’ HSE officers to inspect sites with the sole motive of issuing warning letters and costs invoices rather than taking a more pragmatic view of whether action really is required”.

However, if used sensibly FFI may be an efficient method for HSE to penalise recalcitrant clients and contractors who refuse to take the necessary action on health and safety.

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