The chief inspector of construction at the Health and Safety Executive has accused the industry of improving its efficiency at the expense of site safety.
Kevin Myers attacked the industry’s safety record, saying more people were being killed and injured on sites than ever before because contractors paid too much attention to production methods that improved profit.
He told Building: “Key performance indicators are showing improvement in profitability, time to build and quality, but it worries me to think these improvements are being made at the expense of health and safety.”
Myers added: “The construction industry allegedly signed up to the health and safety improvement put forward by Egan. Sadly, the evidence is that it is not there. In fact, there does appear to be evidence of a worsening situation”
The Egan agenda called for a reduction of 10% in the number of accidents in the industry but Myers said that key performance indicators for site safety had so far failed to record any improvement.
Myers is due to meet deputy prime minister John Prescott next month when he will put forward his own recommendations, which could form part of the minister’s Revitalising Health and Safety initiative.
Myers blamed the failure to improve the industry’s record on a worsening skills shortage. He said: “There has been an upturn in the industry after the recession. This may have reduced the skills base, including knowledge and experience of how to operate safely. I’m not sure how the industry is managing that now.”
Myers dismissed suggestions that the powers of the HSE should be increased to improve safety.He said: “There were 2018 prohibition notices served on construction companies last year. That is 47% of the total number served by the HSE. The problem is that it is clearly not having the required effect. You don’t achieve cultural change just by hitting people about the head.”