Construction industry safety fears as the recovery fuels building

The economic recovery is obviously good news for the UK as a whole, but specifically for the construction industry, which has seen increasing orders for the first time since 2008. Unfortunately, this is accompanied with an increase in accidents and deaths in the industry, as companies are employing staff who are not experienced in the work they are being asked to do.

London accident hotspot

The building resurgence is happening across the country, but London is showing the biggest return to new building, sometimes with abandoned projects being opened up and completed after timeout. Companies who are in a hurry to deliver completed projects against the clock are taking on inexperienced, non-union staff and this is causing grave concerns, as these workers are not trained in the proper health and safety procedures.

Unannounced inspections have fallen between 2011-12 and 2012-13 by 7%, although the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) do plan to up the numbers again in 2014, despite a cut in its budget in 2011 of 35%. Despite the rising numbers of accidents, notices to employers for non-compliance and prosecutions have fallen dramatically by more than ten percent, giving rise to worries that the shortfalls in training are simply not being pursued as rigorously as they should be.

Numbers are rising

Since 2001 there have been 760 deaths across the country in the construction industry and the annual figures show a general slowing down of accidents in general, including fatal ones. The fears that this trend may be reversing is borne out by preliminary findings and many who know the industry well are concerned that once a culture of low standards of health and safety measures becomes the norm, it will be difficult to bring things back to a good level.

Health and safety courses to make sure that workers know how to work safely for their own sake as well as others are not expensive and don’t normally take longer than a day or two, but with time being of the essence, many employers are cutting corners and starting workers in jobs for which they have had no training except possibly a cursory introduction by a colleague.

This of course carries its own risks because soon, workers will be being trained by people who themselves have no proper credentials. Safety training courses often confer a certificate of competence at their conclusion and this is something that employers were once scrupulous about, but with the upturn meaning a shortage of qualified staff, this has been allowed to go by the board.

Although the construction industry is showing signs of recovery, unemployment in general is still high and so many people are applying for jobs in which they have little or no competence and are being taken on through necessity. They then are not anxious to make it known that they have no real knowledge of the basic health and safety requirements of the job because they don’t want to risk losing it.