A last-minute intervention by construction unions has scuppered a meeting of health and safety chiefs over new guidance for company directors

The Institute of Directors (IoD) had invited the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Strategic Forum and construction union Ucatt to attend a meeting on Wednesday to discuss new health and safety guidance.

But the HSE cancelled the meeting on Tuesday, after Ucatt said it would boycott the talks. The union claimed the proposed guidance would water down recommendations made in Rita Donaghy’s report into construction deaths, designed to hold directors personally responsible for good health and safety management within firms.

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of Ucatt, said he was angry that only voluntary guidance had been discussed.

Alexander Ehmann, head of regulatory and parliamentary affairs at the IoD, insisted that the discussions were separate to Donaghy’s recommendations. He said “This is a lost opportunity – there is a real sense of disappointment.”

Stephen Ratcliffe, director of the UK Contractors Group, added: “It is hard to see that Alan Ritchie is doing anything else but playing at politics. Everyone, including trade unions, has known about this meeting for weeks.”