Unions demand end to Health and Safety Executive cuts as construction death-toll rises

A rise in deaths in the construction industry must force the government into reversing policies of cutting safety inspectors and inspections, a coalition of trade unions has insisted.

Construction union Ucatt claims that 74 people have died on building sites already this year – an increase of 14% on last year’s figures.

Ucatt, professionals’ union Prospect and the Public and Commercial Services Union claim the increase in fatalities has occurred alongside staff cuts at the Health and Safety Executive, the body responsible for inspecting workplaces.

Alan Ritchie, general secretary, 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 HSE is being forced to cut up to 300 jobs by 2008. Further cuts could materialise as the HSE’s parent body, the Department of Work and Pensions, will be forced to trim 5% from its spending over the next three years, the unions warn.

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.”

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