Construction minister 'gravely concerned' over audit office report warning of failure to meet accident targets
Construction minister Nigel Griffiths has called on George Brumwell, leader of the construction union UCATT, and strategic forum chairman Peter Rogers to help the industry improve its safety record.

Griffiths has intervened after the publication of a National Audit Office report last week that revealed the industry was unlikely to meet targets set in 2001 for reducing site deaths and major accidents in 2005 and 2010.

It is also understood that Griffiths is gearing up for the industry's second safety summit, expected to be held in March next year.

Griffiths said he was "gravely concerned" about the safety findings. The audit office said that it was unlikely that the industry would reduce site deaths and major accidents by 40% by next year and by 66% by 2010. He said: "I have asked Peter Rogers as chairman of the strategic forum and George Brumwell of UCATT to examine the findings and report back to me on how we can get this back on track."

Rogers said that he had already raised the issue of safety with the Health and Safety Executive.

He said that there was a problem with the way that the HSE reported accidents and incidents in the construction sector. He said that it was fairer to look at accidents as a proportion of the number of hours worked rather than the number of people working on a site. He said: "Safety figures need to be reported as an incident frequency rate of the man-hours worked on sites and not as an incident rate calculated from the number of people working on a site."

He said that there also needed to be more consistency in the reporting of safety figures across the industry and that the figures for good contractors and bad ones needed to be separated rather than lumped together.

At the moment the figures are confused. Some firms report incidents, others don’t

Strategic forum chairman Peter Rogers

He said: "At the moment the figures are confused. Some contractors report incidents and others don't. There needs to be a separation of these two elements so we can see where the real improvements are being made."

Brumwell added that the industry needed to clamp down on bogus self-employment practices to help solve problems with safety.

He said that there was a problem with unregulated labour-only subcontractors that did not come under the scrutiny of main contractors. He said: "Main contractors need to be responsible for the work of the subcontractors on projects.

It is not enough for them only to be responsible for their own workers."

Rogers said that major contractors had demonstrated a commitment to health and safety but noted: "The time has come for major contractors to be responsible for the whole of a construction site, not simply their own staff."

Rogers said that, in order to improve, employers needed to learn from best-practice safety procedures being carried out in the industry.