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Health and Safety Executive to carry out targeted construction site inspections

AuthorsClaire BurrowsIrem Tarasek

Health and Safety Executive to carry out targeted construction site inspections

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced that its inspectors will increase visits and spot-checks on construction sites around the UK throughout September and October 2023 as part of its ‘Work Right Construction: Your Health. Your Future’ campaign.

Here, our own Claire Burrows and Irem Tarasek provide an update on what will be happening and how stakeholders in the construction industry need to prepare.


What will be inspected?

The inspectors will focus on the risks that arise from moving and handling materials — otherwise known as ‘manual handling’ risk — a key area for compliance, around which potential enforcement issues may arise.

It’s understood that HSE will specifically assess employers and workers to check whether they:

HSE inspectors are legally entitled to look around entire construction sites (including inspecting areas beyond manual handling) and consider whether any material breaches arise.

In the event that any ‘material breaches’ are found, HSE inspectors can take various forms of enforcement, including issuing notices of contravention as well as improvement and prohibition notices. Any enforcement action will be recorded on a company’s compliance history. Where a ‘material breach’ is alleged, a fee for intervention will also be charged for the inspectors’ time at the rate of £166 per hour. 


Highest number of work-related fatalities

These targeted inspections may be timely given the latest work-related fatality figures, which demonstrate that the construction industry sadly remains the most prevalent to suffer both fatal and major injury incidents. 

Ensuring workers’ safety is therefore of paramount importance and senior stakeholders are increasingly prioritising compliance, particularly in areas such as manual handling, working at height and traffic segregation.

Working at height, in particular, remains another key risk area — one where non-compliance can often result in enforcement or prosecution. 

A recent example concluded in July 2023, where Counties Construction (Midlands) Ltd was fined £12,000 for its role as principal contractor after a bricklayer fell through a stairwell opening. 

The property at which work was conducted had an unprotected stairwell opening where one end of the Youngman boards was unsupported. While leaning over to point up the blocks in the gable walls, the worker lost his balance before falling onto the unsupported boards, through the stairwell opening and onto the concrete floor four-and-a-half metres below. This resulted in a fractured skull, damaged facial nerve and three days in hospital.

Sadly, this isn’t an isolated occurrence. Work at height regularly presents as a considerable hazard and employers need to be asking the right questions to ensure safety and compliance.


Talk to us

Ultimately, all employers, duty holders, contractors and organisations that operate in the construction sector are reminded to review their levels of compliance in anticipation of any pending spot-checks. 

If you need any help in reviewing your arrangements or obtaining legal advice, our expert health and safety law team can help

We offer a preventative, proactive approach to health and safety matters to help safeguard your people and organisation, avoid an investigation and — where possible — minimise or mitigate the risk of enforcement.

We support construction companies on all aspects of health and safety law and practice, providing advice and consultancy, gap analysis and compliance, strategic advice and legal opinion, as well as training and briefings. 

If the worst happens, we’re also experts in crisis management and can support clients through regulatory investigations and interventions, including enforcement action or prosecution.

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