Last week’s statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which showed an increase in the number of deaths in construction last year were sobering.
The HSE said the 77 deaths that took place accounted for 31% of all deaths in the workplace.
Even one death is too many. We need to ask why, when the government, the HSE and industry have tried to ensure better protection for workers, this has occurred.
Last week I announced that I wanted to bring together key players in construction to look at the underlying issues that have led to the increase and to find ways to address them. I want to hear the views and concerns of clients, contractors, trade unions, suppliers and others and the solutions they have.
I don’t want this to take the form of crisis summits or one-off conferences. Instead, continuing dialogue is the best way forward.
With the prime minister committed to building 3 million homes and large-scale developments over the next few years, the coming decade will be challenging. The industry and government must work together to ensure the safety of workers is put first.
The construction boom is not just an economic opportunity – it is a chance to show the industry has learned the lessons of the past and can meet demands without compromising the safety.
Nobody wants to be discussing the industry’s failure to protect workers when we’re celebrating the Olympic stadium.
These statistics are a wake-up call. We need to address the issues they raise now, so the industry can get on with meeting the challenges ahead.
Peter Hain, secretary of state for work and pensions