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24/07/2012: Who takes H&S more seriously, and what's after the Games? by Chris Stokes

Logo for Construction National blogAmerica is not universally noted for protecting the rights of workers, or for imposing any kind of onerous regulation that can get in the way of business. After all, as Calvin Coolidge DIDN'T say: The business of America is business.

In the UK, on the other hand, we have been traditionally proud of the health and safety record of our industry, particularly the successes we have achieved in reducing accidents in the construction industry.

How perverse, then, that in the same week as an Alabama construction company is fined a six-figure sum for failing to ensure the safety of its worker, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) launched yet another attack on the Government and now the HSE for watering down our own health and safety laws.

In its response to the HSE's proposals to axe 14 health and safety regulations, APIL quoted Prof Ragnar Löfstedt's report into health and safety, which said: "...in general, there is no case for radically altering current health and safety legislation."

Nevertheless, the dismantling of a proud tradition of sensible and responsible health and safety regime goes on in the name of doing away with 'red tape'.
Fortunately, not everybody thinks of personal safety on site in such negative terms. Earlier this month the NHBC announced its 2012 Health and Safety Awards. Congratulations to Nick Bateman, Craig Robson, Bob Rosenberger and David Levy for scooping the awards in their builder categories, and to all the companies recognised for their part in maintaining safe site environments.

Last month the NHBC also announced the first stage winners in its Pride in the Job Awards, the competition for site managers. This year there is a new category alongside the small, medium and large builder and multistorey categories: that of 'single plot', for those building just one home on a site. I'm not sure if that reflects the dwindling number of new homes being built or a growth in the number of bankers using their severance payments to build new mansions. Could be both, I suppose.

The really grim news for the industry is that the Olympics is about to start. It's not that construction industry workers will be upset at not being able to watch the Games because they're at work; quite the opposite. According to a report in New Civil Engineer, much of the construction work taking place in the capital will be geared down during the event. Plus, there is no real sign of how the workers on the site will fare once the job is over.

Chris Stokes