Document calls for clients and architects to be held accountable for safety, with new role for planning officer.
The Health and Safety Executive is responding to the poor accident record in the construction industry by proposing the biggest shake-up of safety regulations in its 26-year history.

The proposals are contained in a 40-page document called Revitalising Construction Health and Safety, a draft of which has been seen by Building. It reveals that the HSE is considering changes that would extend responsibility for safety breaches, so that clients, architects and planning officers would become accountable.

In the document, the HSE criticises the role of architects, claiming that they often show too little commitment to incorporating safety features at the design stage. It also attacks clients for failing to take responsibility for safe construction.

Other ideas in the document are:

  • A review of the role of planning supervisors and three options for their development, which will be considered by the industry.
  • A proposal that local authority staff enforce safety rules. In particular, planning officers would be asked to consider the safety implications of designs when granting planning permission.
  • A plan to introduce a mandatory independent worker competence and training system.
  • A recommendation that the health and safety implications of employing foreign and agency workers should be assessed.

Kevin Myers, HSE chief construction inspector, said the document was intended to provoke discussion on ways to improve health and safety.

Construction workers are six times as likely to be killed as workers in other industries

Revitalising Construction Health and Safety

He said: "The influences to improve health and safety travel far and wide, and go far beyond the immediate hard hats, boots and toe boards of the construction industry."

He said some of the issues dealt with in the discussion document were cultural and commercial, such as the role of integrated supply chains, rather than legislative.

Myers added that the HSE wanted everybody in the industry to contribute to the consultation process, so that when the new rules were agreed, it was with a degree of consensus that would ensure real compliance.

The document is borne out of a failure by the construction industry to protect workers. The HSE criticises the industry's accident and fatality record, saying that construction workers are six times more likely to be killed than those in other industries. It notes that three in four of those killed on sites are self-employed or work for a contractor employing 15 people or fewer.