Fatal injuries in the construction sector in 2016/17 were around 30% lower than the five-year average between 2011 and 2016, but the industry remains the most dangerous and fall from height is still the leading cause of death in construction.   30 workers lost their lives in construction last year with half of those being a result of fall from height cases.  The worker fatal injury rate in the construction sector is 1.37 per 100,000 workers.  That is over 3 times the average rate across all sectors.

Health and safety in construction sites is a subject currently under added scrutiny by the HSE, who are focusing on how construction sites manage health and safety as well as safety risks, as part of it’s second wave of targeted inspections which began in October last year. This co-incides with tougher sentencing and increased fines for breaches.

Recent prosecutions include a company fined £100,000 and a further £11,060.40 for costs, after an employee died in 2006 after falling 6 metres from an agricultural building whilst installing roof sheets.  It was found that the company, C & R Construction of Crediton, did not install suitable edge protection and failed to ensure that those installing the edge protection had suitable training.  After the hearing, inspector Kate Leftly said “Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work related fatalities in this country and the risks associated with working at height are well known.  If suitable edge protection had been installed, the tragic death of this employee could have been prevented”.

The HSE expressed concern with smaller refurbishment sites, who they said “continued to cut corners during refurbishment work, which currently accounts for nearly half of all fatal accidents and injuries reported to the HSE by construction firms”.

As part of the second phase of inspections, as well as continued focus on fall from height, the HSE will be looking at other health and safety in construction issues including the control of harmful dusts.  The HSE said that there was a misconception in construction that health issues, in particular those caused by exposure to silica, brick, stone or wood, or asbestos dust could not be controlled on construction sites.  They said that exposure can be managed with the right design, equipment and training and that many good examples of the correct management of these risks was seen in phase one inspections.

You can find out more information about working at height safety on the HSE website here:

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