Philip White appointed as new HSE chief inspector for construction.

White, previously the HSE’s head of operations for construction in London, east and south-east England, will replace Stephen Williams, who is leaving in January to take up the new post as director of field operations for London and the Olympics, reports Building magazine.

Issues on his agenda include the recent strong rise in fatalities on sites run by major employers including Bouygues and Laing O’Rourke, and responding to the government’s inquiry into construction safety, due to report in Spring 2009.

Meanwhile, the Strategic Forum’s new plant working group has announced that it will focus on tackling the safety problems associated with semi-automatic quick hitches on excavators.

Colin Wood, chief executive of the Construction Plant Hire Association, who is chairing the new working group, told Construction News that the decision was based on long-standing concerns over their safety, and added that training methods and manufacturers would be strongly targeted.

The news comes one week after the death of a London worker allegedly crushed by machinery on a Skanska/Grantrail Docklands Light Railway site. Fifty-eight year-old Harold Sheridan, from Luton, died on 3 December. The British Transport Police has begun a manslaughter investigation into the death, which is focusing on an excavator’s semi-automatic quick hitch, reports Contract Journal

Finally, a new health and safety umbrella organisation for construction has been announced. The Safety Schemes in Procurement Competence Forum (SSIP) will start work in April 2009 with the aim of establishing a common standard for health and safety prequalification based on CDM regulations.

The standard should reduce bureaucracy and duplication by being recognised across the industry and will bring together schemes by the Construction Confederation, Specialist Engineering Contractors Group and Constructiononline.

The chair of SSIP, John Murphy, told Building that reducing paperwork at the prequalification stage would benefit contractors, and give clients confidence that “those they are appointing meet a standard of competence at the first stage.”