Gangmaster regulations brought in after the deaths of 23 Chinese cockle-pickers in Morecambe Bay five years ago could be extended to the construction industry

The recommendation is made in a government report into health and safety in the construction industry, chaired by Rita Donaghy, the former head of the ACAS conciliation service.

If it were implemented, the regulation would apply to employment agencies, which would then be responsible for making employers and their employees aware of their health and safety duties.

It would also mean that agencies would not be allowed to supply workers to cover strike action on sites.

The proposal formed part of a long list of 28 recommendations by Donaghy, who led the inquiry on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.

The recommendations include:

  • Directors to put in place a framework for managing health and safety
  • A full-time minister for construction
  • Review of ConstructionSkills’ allocation of grants
  • The Health and Safety Executive should improve its resources in London, which are “insufficient”
  • An extension of the Building Regulations to consider health and safety processes in building control applications

The inquiry was ordered by James Purnell, the former secretary of state, in August 2008, after 32% of all worker deaths in that year were found to be in the construction industry.

Unions and safety campaign groups welcomed the proposals, warning that the government should act on them.

However, Julia Evans, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders, said: “Extending the remit of the Gangmaster Licensing Authority to cover building is unnecessary and would impose costly red tape on hard-pressed businesses.”