Construction division to get 10 recruits after DWP agrees spending settlement until 2011

The Health and Safety Executive has gone on a recruitment drive following claims that it is dangerously under-resourced.

The HSE is to recruit 40 new inspectors, of whom 10 will be in the construction division. This will raise the number of inspectors in construction to 134, and the overall number to 720.

Stephen Williams, the HSE’s chief executive of construction, confirmed that the body had agreed a spending settlement with the Department for Work and Pensions that allowed them to fund additional posts. The settlement is understood to be worth £712.5m, a 3.6% rise on the previous budget.

He said: “We hope this will make up for some of the losses and wastage of the past year, which I fully accept. We will maintain frontline resources at this level until 2011, when the next spending settlement is agreed.”

The recruitment drive comes two weeks after parliament’s Work and Pensions select committee accused the HSE’s construction inspectorate of being inadequately resourced and called for urgent action on site safety.

Williams said he could not comment on the findings of the committee until the government issued its response.

The news came as the HSE’s construction division revealed its priorities for the coming year. It intends to crack down on developers who are ignoring their duties under the revised CDM regulations.

These rules, which were introduced in April 2007, put an added obligation on clients to ensure their sites are safe, but Williams said evidence suggested that small, one-off clients were shirking these responsibilities.

He said: “We have found that there is a great deal of ignorance, particularly from developers on the edge of commercialism – former City investors who decide to build three or four houses, for example.”

Williams added that the HSE would continue to examine the disproportionate levels of accidents in the refurbishment and housebuilding sectors.