Safety will come under intense scrutiny from government and clients
If 2002 was the year that the government lost patience with the construction industry's health and safety record, 2003 will be the year that it takes action. In the past 12 months, it killed 79 of its workers – a 25% drop on 2001, but still more than one-third of work deaths in UK industry.

What the government will not do is launch a corporate killing bill. A bill has been promised, and it would probably make it easier to bring criminal prosecutions against negligent directors, but it was not in this year's Queen's speech. So, the government's main agent will be the Health and Safety Executive. This has created a fully resourced construction division and that is issuing a record number of improvement notices and is looking to step up the number of prosecutions that it brings. Expect more safety blitzes – a tactic whereby a region is subjected to a large number of simultaneous inspections. Last summer, the HSE hauled 10 contractors into court on the same day for safety offences in London.

Industry associations are also now tackling the health and safety issue like never before. Most trade associations are now fully signed up to strategic forum commitments to improve the accident rates of their members. And good safety practice is good business practice, too: an ever-increasing number of clients are demanding sight of a firm's clean accident record as a prerequisite for a contract award. The strategic forum has already warned contractors that they will need to be safe to win work.