Building control to assist hard-pressed inspectors

Building control officers will be used to bolster the health and safety executive’s dwindling site inspection resources under a trial scheme that could be rolled out nationwide.

Under the joint inspection regime, which will target smaller sites, building control officers will report dangerous working practices to the HSE as part of their normal site visits.

The scheme is being trialled by the HSE’s Luton office, and will cover Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

Steve Evans, the chief building control surveyor at Milton Keynes, said: “We’re hoping this will have a real impact as we have 200 to 300 people across those councils visiting small sites. The HSE only has five inspectors in this area.”

The Hazards Campaign claims each workplace regulated by the HSE is inspected on average every 14.5 years.

There are 124 inspectors in the HSE’s construction division, although it is recruiting 10 more. In contrast, there are about 4,000 building control officers in the public and private sectors in England and Wales.

A reporting protocol for the scheme is in development, but details of safety breaches and the addresses of the sites will be passed to the HSE. Officers will also take photographs that can be used by the HSE to take action without a site visit.

Peter Galsworthy, the HSE’s principal inspector in the Luton office, said the initiative would focus on high-risk activities such as falls from height. He said: “Asbestos and workplace transport are also areas of significant concern.”

The scheme will be monitored for six months to see if health and safety on small sites improve, and could be rolled out nationally if it is a success. Galsworthy said: “I’m in close contact with my colleagues in London who are keen to see how this works out.”

The HSE’s London office was unavailable for comment.