Union alleges serious decline in construction inspections
The Unite union issued a statement on Thursday, confirming it was seeking “urgent meetings” with ministers and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a freedom of information (FOI) request revealed a “sharp drop” in construction inspections.
It said the FOI response from the HSE revealed that the number of unannounced inspections occurring in the construction industry fell by 14% in a single year.
The union - which represents a large proportion of the building industry through its Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians wing - said that in 2015/16 there were 9,219 inspections.
That number reduced to 7,912 in 2016/17.
The union claimed that reduction in inspections followed a trend, as there was also a 4% decrease in the previous 12 months.
“These figures are alarming as they demonstrate a huge decrease in vital lifesaving inspections,” said Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail.
“Sadly there remain far too many employers who are all too willing to cut safety regulations and it is only the genuine prospect of an unannounced inspection which keeps them in check.”
The union claimed that construction was the “most dangerous industry” in the UK, citing several academic studies as revealing a “clear correlation” between the frequency of inspections and compliance with safety laws.
Since receiving the FOI response, Unite wrote to the HSE and David Gauke - the new work and pensions secretary - seeking meetings.
“The government has slashed funding for the HSE and it is clear that it is increasingly struggling to make ends meet,” Cartmail added.
“With a new secretary of state in place Unite and our members need to know what plans he has for the HSE and safety laws.
“We also need answers from the HSE about whether they are taking steps to redress this fall in inspections and whether there are specific reasons for these reductions.”