HSE calls for overhaul of attitudes to safety as construction tops UK fatalities list

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has demanded an overhaul of construction's attitudes to safety after new figures showed the sector was responsible for more fatalities than any other.

There were 72 fatalities in construction during 2007/2008, compared to 77 the previous year. But despite the slight reduction it was the highest death count in any sector, accounting for 31% of the 229 fatalities that occurred across all industries, reported Building magazine.

Construction was also responsible for more major injuries than any other profession, with 599.2 per 100,000 employees suffering injuries this year.

Judith Hackitt, chair of the HSE called for a 'step change', branding construction a 'particular concern' and warning contractors to remain vigilant over safety as the credit crunch puts extra pressures on businesses.

Site safety concerns were highlighted by news in Contract Journal (CJ) that thousands of site workers hold the wrong skills cards under the CSCS scheme.

CJ claims workers are carrying out skilled trades when they only hold green labourers' cards. One source told the magazine that half of all Eastern European carpenters working on UK sites only have green cards.

Obtaining a green card is simply a matter of passing a basic safety test, but cards for skilled trades require stricter checks for proper qualifications.

One source told CJ: 'The card is really just acting as a passport to site at the moment. Foreign workers in particular just get a green card then carry out skilled work they used to do back in their own countries. Contractors turn a blind eye because they can get skilled workers to start straight away just by issuing them a labourers' card.'

In related news, Galliford Try has been fined £15,000 after a subcontractor was injured at a site in Holyhead, north Wales. The contractor pleaded guilty to a safety breach after an over-inflated pipe stopper exploded on June 16, 2005, fracturing the shin bones and damaging the hearing of a worker.