Shock as government rejects Donaghy's key points

1 April 2010

Safety campaigners have responded with “shock” after the government failed to meet the recommendations of the Donaghy report and introduce gangmaster licensing and a dedicated construction minister.

Rita Donaghy, former chair of the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service, made 28 recommendations in her 96-page report, One Death Too Many, published in July 2009. The report looked into the underlying causes of construction deaths.

Construction News reported that the government was supporting 23 of 28 of the report’s recommendations, but that many of the most significant ones had been side-stepped.

On gangmaster licensing, which would have forced labour agencies to enforce higher safety standards for the industry's indirect labout force, the government said “robust protections” for workers were already in place and that it had already launched a programme of work to ensure vulnerable workers got more protection.

It said the construction minister brief was better off alongside a broader portfolio, as it is now, so did not endorse a dedicated minister. The government said that addressing issues as part of a cross-sectoral portfolio can potentially bring wider benefits to construction.

Tony O’Brien, national secretary of the Construction Safety Campaign, told Building: “This is outrageous. [Donaghy] was specifically brought in and on the eve of the election they decide not to carry it out. I’m in shock.”

Another key recommendation was for the extension of building regulations, so that health and safety processes could be included when considering building control applications or building warrants. But the Government said that there were “limits to what can be delivered through building regulations”.

The recommendation to commission a Health and Safety Executive pilot study to determine the impact of more prosecutions in cases where there had been a breach of regulations but no accident had resulted was also deemed unnecessary.

The government is yet to decide whether to impose further health and safety duties on directors, as recommended by Donaghy.

But it said it fully accepts 23 of the report's recommendations, including the support of common minimum standards for public projects, mutual recognition between pre-qualification schemes and support for greater worker participation.

The Government’s response has been long-awaited by industry and safety lobbyists, who were told that it would be published before the end of 2009.

Donaghy welcomed the response, but said she continued to stand by all her findings.

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