The Revitalising Construction Health and Safety discussion document, which has been circulated to industry leaders, focuses in particular on the safety measures taken during the preconstruction period. The HSE claims that 60% of accidents are a result of decisions made before construction begins. It suggests that architects have little understanding of the health and safety implications of their building designs and accuses clients of being unaware of the state of safety on site.
In its report the HSE proposes that clients be given a greater responsibility for safety and says they should force contractors to uphold high safety standards. To make architects aware of their safety responsibilities the HSE proposes setting minimum safety standards for project designs and says that architects should be taught health and safety during their training.
Contractors aren't left out of the equation. A recent safety blitz by the HSE in London proved how seriously it is taking contractors' attitude to safety. As a result of the clampdown nine building companies were fined including major contractors Kier London and Wates.
The report says that contractors should be provided with financial incentives to comply with occupational best practice, which would be written into contracts before projects start.
The HSE is also keen to bring insurers on board. This week it was in talks with the insurance industry over plans to introduce criteria that contractors must meet to be insured on high-risk projects.
The HSE's blueprint includes a review of the effectiveness of planning supervisors, and it has made three suggestions as to what their role will be in the future. Local authorities can also expect to be more closely involved in safety. The HSE wants them to be given powers to enforce health and safety early on in the planning process.
If the HSE's bold proposals are realised, the construction industry's lamentable safety record should slowly improve. There are signs that things are getting better already - there were 25% fewer site deaths last year. But with six times as many fatalities in construction than in any other industry, it's clear that it will be a long while before the HSE turns its spotlight elsewhere.