ECIC, the specialist insurer for electrical and mechanical contractors, is urging insurers and brokers who service the UK’s construction industry to put greater focus on supporting health and safety practices amongst contractors. The Latest Health and Safety Executive Construction statistics in Great Britain 2019 show that despite changes to penalties for health and safety at work offences in 2016 leading to higher fines for HSE breaches, there has only been a marginal improvement to safety records in construction.
The statistics show that there were 30 fatal injuries to construction workers in 2018/19 which is a small improvement on the annual average number of 36 fatalities over the last five years. In addition, instances in which the HSE have had to stop work on construction sites due to unsafe practices, account for 60% of all the prohibition notices issued between 2018 and 2019.
Richard Forrest Smith, ECIC’s CEO, said: “After years of marked improvements in health and safety records, we seem to have reached a plateau. The increased penalties that contractors are facing may help to improve standards, but with 30 fatalities and the deaths of seven innocent members of the public, they are clearly not working to eradicate unsafe practices to the needed level.
Aside from the immense human cost of accidents at work, there is also the negative impact this has on insurance costs which can impact the whole of the sector and undermine new projects and investment. It is incumbent on all of us working in the building services sector to insist on standards of competence as a condition of cover and take every opportunity to help educate contractors on the value of creating a health and safety culture.”
Trade journal Construction News reported in November that the number of prosecutions pursued by the HSE has been falling markedly. Since 2016 the number of cases has dropped by 44%, and the HSE’s budget has been slashed by 32% in the last three years, plus it has lost 300 trained Inspectors – all of which which obviously has an effect.
Insurance Edge Comment:
If you look at the skyline of Manchester, London, Bristol, Blackpool, and many other towns and cities in the UK, you will see dozens of scaffold sets reaching for the skyline as flagship shopping centres and rental apartments are being built by Councils, despereate to lure the remaining solvent High Street retailers – and large scale private sector landlords – into their gridlocked centres.
Much of this building bonanza is funded on mythical, low interest money, loaned to Councils and government funded housing associations, so that grandiose regeneration schemes can be completed – often in the teeth of furious local trader/resident opposition. If the public sector wants this building work to happen they should up their game and police their own funded construction sites, not hide behind the daisy chain of outsourced contracts that are always gathered together, like wagons in a circle, whenever such projects are planned, approved and implemented.
To starve one part of the public sector machine of resources, whilst another section charges ahead with building potentially empty shop units and student apartments, is ridiculous. More joined up thinking please.