40% of construction sites fail health and safety checks—don’t be one of them!

by Dann Albright on December 9, 2014

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The HSE recently embarked upon a month-long series of spot checks at construction sites. Shockingly, almost 700 of the over 1700 sites—a full 40%—failed those checks. 313 of those sites received prohibition notices preventing them from continuing work until the issues giving rise to the notices were remedied. Today we’re taking a look at why so many sites failed the spot checks and what you can do to make sure it doesn’t happen to you!

Why did so many sites fail?

In looking at the HSE’s press release, the numbers are very surprising. 40% of sites failed their spot checks. At 20% of sites, practices were so poor that the inspectors took enforcement action. Over 300 sites were flouting health and safety regulations to the degree that inspectors issued prohibition notices that stopped work until the issues were fixed. An additional 235 improvement notices were issued, requiring improvements at the site within a specified period of time.

So what were the problems that caused all of these notices to be served? Over 75% of them came from the following four areas: work at height and falls (42%), failure to control dust (12%), insufficient welfare (12%), and asbestos (10%). Interestingly, 35% of the notices were for health issues, like asbestos, dust, noise, vibration, welfare, and manual handling.

As the HSE pointed out, most of these violations could have been prevented with simple, straightforward measures.

These results show that whilst the majority of employers in the refurbishment sector are getting it right, a significant part of the industry is seriously failing its workers.
—Philip White, HSE Chief of Construction

White also stated that health issues are often overlooked because their consequences aren’t immediately visible.

If you’d like to see some of the examples of good and bad practice found by the HSE inspectors, you can check out the Safersites 2014 board on Pinterest.

How can you make sure you pass the next inspection?

The HSE is strict in its inspection and enforcement policies, and it’s important to be prepared for their next round of inspections. Are you doing everything you can to make sure you’re in compliance with health and safety regulations? Here are three steps you can take to make sure you pass your next inspection.

1. Stay informed.

Staying compliant with health and safety regulations means you have to keep a lot of things in mind. Staying up to date with the HSE’s current inspection initiatives and new regulations will help you make sure that you have a good idea of the sorts of things you need to be paying attention to at your construction site.


We regularly post updates on these things (see our posts “Top 6 risks HSE inspectors are looking for in today’s construction site crack down” and “Remembering the ‘health’ in ‘health and safety’” for examples), and we’ll do our best to keep you up to date on all of the important goings on at HSE. Make sure to check back often, and follow us on Twitter to get the very latest updates!

2. Put in effort ahead of time.

A large proportion of the bad practices that the HSE found in its inspection initiative could have been headed off before the inspection with a small investment of time and effort. Instead, site managers are now scrambling to deal with paperwork, comply with the notices they received, and still get their project done on time.

Cutting corners might help you save some time now, but it will only end up in lost time later, either from a resulting injury to one of your workers or from receiving an improvement or prohibition notice from the HSE. It may seem like a waste of time, but it’s important to take the time to address health and safety concerns early on in the project.

3. Use a solid documentation strategy.

An effective documentation solution will not only help you create the proper RAMS and COSHH documents needed to pass an inspection, but it will also remind you of all of the issues that you need to be taking into account, helping you to put safety measures in place before you even get started on the job.

The HANDSHQ app helps you do exactly that—by providing ready-made, customisable documentation, it will make sure that you know the health and safety hazards that are present at your site so you can put measures in place early. It also creates risk assessments and methods statements in minutes, potentially saving you hundreds of hours—and thousands of pounds—every year.

When will the next inspection initiative be?

There’s no way to know when the HSE will start another inspection initiative, but it’s safe to assume that it will be in the near future, as construction sites clearly have a number of issues with health and safety. Don’t wait until you hear about it to get your act together—start today and make sure your site is safe!

Image credits: HSE.

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