The union UCATT has revealed that its ‘Freedom of Information’ request discovered the total number of HSE construction site inspections had fallen from 10,577 in 2012-13 to 9,656 in 2014-15, a reduction of 8.7 per cent.
It said the decline in inspections came at a time when the construction industry was recovering from recession and activity was increasing. The biggest reduction was in Scotland, which saw a drop of 55.7 per cent in site inspections.
Brian Rye, acting general secretary of UCATT, said: “This fall in inspection activity is deeply troubling. The prospect of an unexpected knock on the door by a construction inspector is what keeps many employers on their toes. If employers believe that their safety procedures are not going to be checked this will lead to slackness and corners being cut. Workers could pay with their lives.”
The union said construction was the most dangerous industry in the UK in 2014/15, with 35 construction workers suffering fatal injuries. UCATT leader Brian Rye added: “The HSE needs to explain what is behind the reduction in inspectors is this due to budget cuts or specific policies to reduce inspection activity? Construction workers deserve to be told the truth.”
Prof Andrew Watterson, who heads the Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group at Stirling University, said: “The HSE has just launched a new and exceptionally weak GB strategy on health and safety, based on a London bubble.
“Construction workers may well be amazed that HSE is so complacent about inspections and enforcement and seems to rely more and more on some alternative bland and neutered stakeholder approach. HSE increasingly looks and sounds like a toothless tiger – a lot of noise and increasingly little action.”