Major Contractors Group puts pressure on government to be more active in enforcing safety on public projects.
The government is considering the use of civil servants as "roving safety reps" on public sector projects after pressure from contractors.

The Major Contractors Group met advisers of prime minister Tony Blair at the end of last week to urge them to improve safety. MCG director Bill Tallis said that it had asked the advisers to consider random inspections to ensure that sites complied with guidelines set out by the Office of Government Commerce.

He said: "The safety checks could be made by departmental procurement teams, and would be at random."

Under the MCG proposal the inspections would be carried out by staff in the procurement section of the government department involved.

Tallis said that the major contractors felt they had made big improvements in their approach to site safety but that the government had failed as a client to do its job.

The MCG noted, for instance, that the government had failed to meet a last month's deadline for implementing good safety practice on record keeping.

Construction minister Brian Wilson said this week that public sector clients must ensure that sites are well managed and safe. He said that clients ought to have a clear understanding of their business needs in order to put in place procurement arrangements that met their long-term requirements.

Wilson, speaking at the Building Awards in London on Tuesday night, said: "Government cannot expect this to happen unless we practise what we preach." He added that the OGC's guidance on procurement clearly explained what central government clients ought to do.

n Chancellor Gordon Brown announced in the Budget on Wednesday that the government intended to increase the number of work permits for overseas workers who wanted to work in the UK construction industry.

Brown said that this initiative would operate in tandem with a further crackdown on illegal foreign workers in the construction industry.

A Whitehall source said that the government expected to allocate an extra 20,000 permits for workers in the building industry. Building reported in November 2001 that Wilson was holding talks with the Home Office over plans to relax curbs on skilled immigrants in construction.