Construction health & safety – cause for concern

The government recently announced that there was to be a reduction in the number of planned health and safety inspections for many UK businesses such as shops, offices, pubs and clubs. It also made it clear that, in higher risk areas like construction, inspections would continue, reflecting an ongoing concern surrounding the sector’s safety record.

Despite the recession and a downturn in construction levels, figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal that in 2010/11, 50 construction workers lost their lives – an increase on the previous year. In addition, 2298 major injuries were reported as well as the loss of 1.7 million working days through work related ill health*.

In turn, the HSE has reaffirmed its commitment to reducing the number of health and safety incidents by:

  • Targeting at least a third of its inspections on small sites.
  • Improving the availability and quality of health and safety information.
  • The introduction of a “Leadership and Worker Involvement” Toolkit to help small and medium sized businesses improve their health and safety performance.
  • The introduction of a fee where HSE inspectors identify a material breach of the law.

A priority for any business working in construction is to ensure your risk management procedures are in place and up-to-date, with a robust health and safety policy.

Your Employers’ Liability (EL) insurance is there to cover your business in the event of legal compensation claims (and the legal costs attached to this) made against you by your employees for accidents or illnesses. It will not pay any fines or penalties that could be due as a result of your business being found to have an unsafe working environment. Your Public Liability insurance provides similar cover for any members of the public on site and, as with your EL cover, you could be similarly liable to fines or penalties in the event your site is found to have health and safety failings.

If you are unsure about how best to meet your business’s health and safety obligations, or just what your insurance covers, contact us for further information and guidance.