Health Time Bomb Uncovered by HSE Inspections

A series of intensive construction site inspections has revealed a health time bomb facing workers.

Over a two week period Health and Safety Executive inspections visited 560 sites. The inspections focussed on significant long-term health risks for workers including respiratory risks from dusts containing silica materials, exposure to other hazardous substances such as cement and lead paint, manual handling, noise and vibration.

The conditions on 13 sites were so dangerous that some work was stopped immediately. In total enforcement action either prohibition notices or improvement notices were issued on 85 sites. On a further 201 sites employers were issued with a notice of contravention as there was a material breach of health and safety laws. In total the HSE had serious health and safety concerns about 51% of the sites they visited (85 sites with enforcement notices + 201 sites served with a notice of contravention.

Steve Murphy, General Secretary of construction, said: “These finding are appalling. Workers are constantly being exposed to health risks on construction sites. The long term damage that workers are being exposed is a time bomb for their health.”

The majority of construction workers are forced to retire or leave the industry before they reach state pension age, due to injury or ill health.

Mr Murphy, added; “These results show that employers simply don’t care about the long-term health of construction workers. Employers putting workers health at risk, should be prosecuted, there is simply no excuse as basic safety measures can massively reduce the dangers workers face.”

It is estimated that up to 1,000 workers in the UK could die every year due to exposure to silica dust according to new research undertaken by the University of Stirling.

The current exposure limit for silica is 0.1 milligrams per cubic metre. The United States currently has the same exposure limit but their equivalent of the HSE the OSHA is publicly calling for this limit to be halved. The HSE is opposed to reducing the exposure levels because of technological concerns of monitoring silica levels.

Mr Murphy further added: “Silica is a proven killer. The first step in reducing deaths must be reducing exposure limits and  the HSE must stop dragging its feet on this matter.”

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