Construction union demands a safety director at every firm and tougher penalties for negligence

Half the construction workers killed at work last year were employed by small firms, according to research published by construction union Ucatt.

This is disproportionately high, given that only one-third of the industry's workers are employed by small companies.

The figure was established through analysis of fatality data for 2008 from the Health and Safety Executive.

The union is calling for tougher penalties for those found to be criminally negligent, including prison sentences for bosses who fail to keep their workers safe.

It has called for every firm in the industry to appoint a director for safety standards, who would have a legal obligation to ensure the safety of workers.

Small firms employ half the industry's workers but account for half of site deaths

The union released the research to commemorate International Workers' Memorial Day, when it remembers construction workers killed at work around the world.

A spokesperson told the BBC: “International Workers' Memorial Day is an opportunity to come together and remember these people, but it is also an opportunity to demand far higher levels of safety on construction sites. Every death is preventable.”