An investigation has revealed that workers on two out of five building sites are not receiving adequate protection.
The Health and Safety Executive carried out a month-long inspection on construction sites around the country and found that a worrying number of companies were putting their workforce at risk.
Most notably, firms were not taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of employees working at height. Others were not following the correct procedures for dealing with asbestos, harmful dusts and noise levels.
HSE’s chief of construction, Philip White, said: “These results show that, whilst the majority of employers in the refurbishment sector are getting it right, a significant part of the industry is seriously failing its workers.
“The inability to properly plan working at height continues to be a major issue, despite well-known safety measures being straightforward to implement. It is just not acceptable that inspectors had to order work to stop immediately on over 200 occasions because of dangerous practices.
“We also find health is often overlooked as its implications are not immediately visible; however, the effects of uncontrolled exposure to deadly dusts such as asbestos and silica can be irreversible.”
Only last week, a Wimbledon-based building firm was fined more than £12,000 after admitting a catalogue of failings at its site in Holland Park.
Steve Murphy, general secretary of the construction workers’ union Ucatt, said the results of the recent investigation were “appalling”.
“Time after time employers are putting workers in danger,” he said. “The HSE inspections only touch a tiny fraction of construction sites and most construction workers never see an HSE inspector unless a major accident has occurred.
“The HSE are uncovering basic and straightforward safety breaches. It is imperative that far greater emphasis is applied to uncovering dangerous construction practices and prosecuting the guilty. Construction employers will never improve safety unless they fear being caught.”