Alarming rise in construction deaths linked to swingeing government cuts


Alarming rise in construction deaths linked to swingeing government cuts

A dramatic rise in deaths in the construction industry must shame the government into reversing policies of cutting safety inspectors and inspections, unions (Prospect, UCATT and PCS) have demanded.

Latest figures reveal that 74 people have died on building sites already this year, an increase of 14 per cent on last year’s figures. Tragically, it is feared that the figure for construction fatalities will rise further before March 31, the end of the recording year.

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of UCATT, said: "One death on a building site is one death too many. The lives of building workers cannot be reduced to a financial cost. The government must reverse these cuts and put extra resources into ensuring that this inherently dangerous industry is made safer."

The increase in fatalities has occurred alongside the massive cutbacks at the Health and Safety Executive, the body responsible for inspecting workplaces. The HSE are being forced to cut 283 jobs by 2008. The job losses come on top of year on year real term financial cuts at the HSE since 2002.

Further cuts are expected as the organisations' parent body, the Department of Work and Pensions, will be forced to make cuts of five per cent from its spending over the next three years.

Research shows that workplaces only receive an HSE inspection once every 13 years. Further job losses are expected to further reduce the number of workplace inspections undertaken.

On behalf of 1,750 inspectors, scientists and other professionals in the Health and Safety Executive, Prospect negotiator Mike MacDonald said: "The government’s refusal to back the call for proper resources for inspection and accident investigation ignores the stack of evidence that enforcing the law is the most effective motivator for business to improve health and safety standards.

"In addition to the families devastated by the rise in construction site fatalities, there are numerous other lives wrecked by horrendous injuries at work who will never get justice because the cutbacks have resulted in a restriction of the accident selection criteria used to prompt an investigation."

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: "This is a shocking statistic and should be a wake up call to the government who should be investing in safety rather than crude cost cutting. The HSE do a vital job in protecting the UK workforce from cowboy employers and careless practices. Cutting jobs and resources leads to fewer inspections which in turn results in tragic consequences."

Construction is the most dangerous profession in Britain. In recent years deaths on building sites had been slowly decreasing but the latest news shows an alarming trend in the wrong direction.