The National Federation of Builders has attacked the government over its attitude to construction safety, saying it will not drive improvement unless it focuses its attention on improving local authorities’ procurement practices.

The call follows an announcement by health and safety minister Jane Kennedy at last week’s safety summit that contractors working projects funded by central government will have to meet mandatory safety standards. The NFB says the move will not have a significant impact unless it also applies to local government clients.

Barry Stevens, the NFB’s chief executive, has written to Kennedy and construction minister Nigel Griffiths. In the letter he says: “While we welcome the reassuring words of Mr Griffiths that government departments must lead the way on safety, it is only by driving health and safety to the centre of local government procurement policy that progress will be made.”

Stevens said information gathered from the NFB’s 3000 member companies highlighted serious problems with the level of priority given to safety by local authorities.

He said: “Feedback is that local government procurement policy often fails to acknowledge the importance of health and safety, and endorses a lowest price wins approach.

Pre-selection methods are often found lacking, a fact witnessed by the acceptance at face value of a company’s health and safety policy statements without investigating its commitment to that policy.”

The NFB suggests that the government should consider adopting the Contractors’ Health and Safety Scheme as standard. The scheme, developed by the London Borough of Merton, has been adopted by a significant number of government sector clients.