Builders under the microscope

A posse of inspectors blitzed the building industry in London at the start
of a nationwide inspection programme

Most builders work well over their contracted hours each week with
potentially fatal consequences, according to a Government-backed study.

The work-life balance survey of 180 builders by the Department of Trade and
Industry and Building magazine found that more than a quarter of those polled
worked up to five extra hours a week.

Almost 40 per cent worked five to 10 hours extra, 25 per cent totted up an
extra 10 to 15 hours and nearly 10 per cent worked more than 15 extra hours a

The study comes as concern over health and safety in the building and
construction trade is increasing.

In April, inspectors from the HSE carried out a five-day blitz of
construction sites in London, the first of a rolling 12-month national
programme planned by its new construction division.

A team of 31 inspectors visited sites across the capital, stopping work on
sites where poor standards were identified.

The HSE is worried about the heavy accident rate in the industry-out of the
291 work-related deaths last year, 106 were on construction sites.

HSE inspector Barry Mullen said: "Falling from height is the single
biggest killer in construction – last year accounting for 44 per cent of all
deaths in the industry. Good welfare is essential. The poor welfare conditions
HSE inspectors have encountered during site visits are not acceptable in the
21st century."

But the DTI/Building study also showed builders were in principle prepared
to embrace new ways of working.

Almost two-thirds of respondents said they worked for a company that had
flexible working arrangements, with part-time working and flexi-time the most
popular practices – covering about 40 per cent of those workplaces.

And 85 per cent of building companies said they would implement flexible
working policies if it would help staff achieve a better work-life balance.

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