New chairman's call comes as Quarry Products Association prepares to launch "safety passport" initiative.
The new chairman of the National Federation of Builders, Bill Rabbetts, has called on members to take the lead over health and safety reforms.

He said the federation's members were well placed to encourage a bottom-up culture change. "In small and medium-sized companies, managers work very close to the workplace, making it easier to communicate with on-site operatives to improve safety."

Rabbetts, managing director of Hampshire-based Drew Construction Group, a firm with a turnover of £12m, succeeds Malcolm Clark as chairman of the federation.

The NFB underlined its commitment to safety by holding a safety conference after its annual meeting this week.

Rabbetts said that regional events and workshops were planned to show how good safety practice could be implemented.

He said: "We are looking at organising particular health and safety training initiatives, which could be funded by the Construction Industry Training Board or through the European Commission."

He added that the success of the campaign would be measured by how diligent people on site were in fulfilling their safety obligations.

He said: "Site workers are the real ambassadors of health and safety and it is our task to keep it at the top of our agenda and get it to the top of theirs."

The call for action comes as the Quarry Products Association prepares to launch its own safety initiative.

Contractors on all QPA sites will be expected to hold a "safety passport" by the end of 2003.

The initiative is part of a "hard target" pledge to the Health and Safety Commission, signed by the QPA, the Institute of Quarrying and other organisations.

This pledge commits the signatories to a continuous improvement of health and safety in the quarrying industry and, specifically, to halve accidents by 2005.

In order to obtain a three-year safety passport, contractors must complete a one-off, two-day course in basic health, safety, and environmental awareness.

The QPA claims that contractors will benefit from low-cost provision of health and safety awareness, independently assured by EPIC, the industry's national training organisation.

The QPA also claims that the passport will set contractors apart from cowboy operators and can be used as evidence in gaining a national vocational qualification.