AN “APPALLING willingness to ignore basic safety precautions” led to the closure of 19 construction refurbishment sites in Merseyside and Cheshire during a recent Government inspection.
Twenty-nine sites were visited in the region during the two-month Health and Safety Executive inspection programme, with the worst 19 being handed prohibition notices, forcing them to stop work immediately until corrective action was taken.
A further five were given improvement notices, requiring an improvement to a health and safety problem within a specified time, as it was revealed that workers’ lives were being put at risk at nearly one in three of more than 1,500 construction refurbishment sites inspected nationwide.
The programme, which resulted in enforcement action on 426 occasions throughout the country, was managed by HSE North West Construction Inspector Nic Rigby.
He said: “New-build operations have tightened up their act, but there is still a lot of improvement required in refurbishment work.
“We can’t see such work as readily, as it often takes place behind the walls of pre-existing buildings, but we are determined that the safety standards should match.”
More than half of the enforcement action taken during the inspection initiative was against dangerous work at height, which remains the biggest concern, and which last year led to the death of 23 workers.
Stephen Williams, HSE’s head of construction, said: “Our inspectors were appalled at the apparent willingness to ignore basic safety precautions.
“It is completely unacceptable that so many lives have been put at risk.
“The simple fact is that despite knowing what they should be doing, too many people are prepared to allow bad practices to continue, even though last year 39 people died on refurbishment, repair and maintenance sites.
“We are determined to tackle this issue head-on, and will continue to take enforcement action against those rogues who flout safety precautions.”
The inspection teams visited 154 sites throughout the North West, issuing 38 prohibition notices and eight improvement notices.
The dangers of working on construction sites was highlighted as recently as Wednesday in Liverpool when six workers were taken to hospital after scaffolding collapsed at the new £23.5m art and design academy of John Moores University. A health and safety investigation is under way.
In January, a Polish workmen was killed when a crane crashed 120ft into a city centre building site between Seel Street and Colquitt Street.
Two months later, father-of-two Keith Wharton was killed by a frame which fell from a crane at the Stackright Building Systems site on the Knowsley industrial estate.
On March 29, a man was killed when a crane toppled over at Wavertree Boulevard.
OPINION: PAGE 12