Shock rise in industry fatalities

5 February 2010

Internal documents from the Health and Safety Executive and reported in Construction News reveal a sharp rise in construction fatalities. John Spanswick, chair of the  Strategic Forum’s health and safety group, warned that the sudden jump should “raise alarm bells” across the industry.

According to preliminary figures presented at the latest Health and Safety Executive Board meeting there were 13 construction fatalities in October and November last year, compared with 18 deaths in the whole six months prior.

More than half the deaths in October and November were the result of a fall from a height, a cause which claimed a further two lives last week when two construction workers died in falls from Scottish railway bridges within less than 10 hours of each other.

Responding to the figures, the British Safety Industry Federation demanded a nationally accepted accreditation scheme for those working at height and “more realistic” safety equipment.

BSIF chairman David Hall told Construction News: “The BSIF would like to see the incidents of injuries caused by working at height significantly reduced. Many lives are lost due to negligence, often due to ignorance and a lack of training.”

The Strategic Forum's Spanswick, chairman of Bovis Lend Lease, told Construction News: “Seeing these figures has raised alarm bells for me. Clearly there is something we need to look at.”

Spanswick also said that the HSE should look at modelling a new national safety drive for construction based on its recent asbestos campaign.

Acknowledging that falls from height were a significant problem HSE chief executive Geoffrey Podger said he would consider the request.

The findings come at as the Government prepares its response to the Donaghy report, which put forward 28 wide-ranging recommendations.

There had been hopes that the construction industry was making progress in addressing safety concerns, with the 18 deaths between April and September 2009 marking a significant reduction on the same period the previous year, which saw 32 fatalities. However, it's also been suggested that  the improvement was a result of the drop in construction activity.

Last week the HSE launched its “Shattered Lives” campaign, which is aimed at reducing slips, trip and falls at work across all industries.

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