With construction deaths running at a five-year high Ian Gibb argues that the industry must start employing dedicated safety officers

A pair of eyes focusing solely on health and safety compliance would be of great benefit to the construction industry.

Health and safety gear

Construction work needs an 'in house' inspector, a senior member of staff who is independent of any other role - a safety person rather than a 'bookworm' client, designer, builder or QS. That person needs to ensure that health and safety is included in all calculations, all designs and on a day-to-day basis.

They should not be filling in silly and pointless forms or awarding a gold star to the site manager because he is intimidated by him or because he thinks he's a good bloke.

The ‘safety officer’ (sigh, those were the days) should be allowed to co-ordinate throughout the construction phase, to the extent that the plan is complied by those actually doing the project work. They should ensure that safety is given due regard when and where it matters most – ie where the building or installation work is taking place.

He or she will comment on observed situations and compare with the planned provision, and accordingly determine and report shortfalls. He will then be responsible for reporting his findings to the project team and the client for immediate action.

To summarise I would like to see the coordinator being a competent, experienced health and safety professional at the heart of the management team and with no other responsibilities to detract from his role.

Health and safety is not rocket science. Employ a safety officer in house, pay him what the position deserves but most importantly, if you give them the responsibility, make sure yougive them the authority too.