Construction Products Association president Roy Harrison has hit back at criticism from Chartered Institute of Building head Chris Blythe that he is complacent about the industry’s poor safety record.

Blythe had attacked Harrison for a speech at a Labour conference fringe meeting in which he said he wanted to see the death toll in the industry cut by half. Blythe said industry should aim for zero tolerance.

But Harrison countered: “Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as that, as Mr Blythe should know, especially as his members are those responsible for managing health and safety on construction sites across the country.” Harrison added that he had worked with the quarry industry to set targets with the Health and Safety Executive to reduce the number of accidents in the sector.

He said: “That section of the industry has set a target, but it is about reducing the number of all accidents, not just fatalities.

“This is not complacency, but a realistic assessment of what is achievable. Training has to be improved and management have to keep on the ball and carry on making progress.” Harrison was formerly chief executive of Tarmac, but quit when it was taken over by mining company Anglo-American last November.