UCATT general secretary warns that legislation will be imposed if industry fails to clean up its safety record.
The government will carry out its threat to impose roving safety reps on major contractors if they refuse to play ball with the voluntary scheme, UCATT general secretary George Brumwell has warned.
Brumwell said deputy prime minister John Prescott and environment minister Michael Meacher had made it clear at February's safety summit that legislation would be introduced if the industry failed to tackle its safety record.
Brumwell said: "The industry has been given ample time to get its act together. There is a danger that February's summit was just a flash in the pan and the industry will go back to what it was doing. But the government and the trade unions are not going to let that happen and neither is the Health and Safety Executive." The roving reps pilot scheme, which was to have been introduced this month, is now expected to be launched next month. A decision on who will run it is expected shortly.
The scheme faces growing opposition from the UK's biggest contractors. Members of the Major Contractors Group have reached an informal agreement not to support the scheme, although several firms intend to make a final decision privately (right). The Construction Confederation has also refused to endorse the scheme until further details are available.
An HSE spokesperson said: "We are not anticipating any problems with carrying out the pilots, nor with co-operation with industry. It's worth trying most things to reduce construction's horrendous accident rate." A new bill on health and safety at work was announced in the Queen's Speech last December. Consultation on its contents is continuing.The Health and Safety Executive has taken out full-page adverts in tabloid newspapers to urge construction workers to make safety a priority. The ads, which have appeared in The Sun, The Mirror and the Daily Star, feature roofer Ian Whittington, who broke his back in a fall in 1993.
What will the majors do next?Balfour Beatty is not taking part in the pilot scheme. “Safety issues are something better managed internally and that is how we will continue to work,” said a spokesperson. Balfour Beatty recently withdrew from the MCG but is still a member of the Construction Confederation, which has also decided not to support the pilot. Skanska has not been approached to take part in the pilot. It says it stands by its membership of the MCG, which is chaired by Skanska Construction chief executive Keith Clarke. HBG A spokesperson said: “As it stands, we subscribe to the MCG line but we are reserving judgement until we see a proper job description of what these reps are and what is their remit.” Mowlem chief executive and Construction Confederation president John Gains said last month that nothing could be ruled out in the bid to reduce site accidents. It is understood that Mowlem has discussed letting roving reps on to its sites with the HSE.