Union warns over ‘frightening’ drop in unannounced HSE inspections

HSE inspectors conduct an inspection on a construction site (Image: HSE)
HSE inspectors conduct an inspection on a construction site (Image: HSE)

Unannounced construction inspections by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have fallen by 31% in less than a decade, according to the Unite union.

Unite said it uncovered the “frightening” fall in inspections after a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

In 2013/14 the HSE undertook 11,303 proactive (unannounced) construction inspections but the figures for the last full year 2021/22 showed that just 7,793 inspections took place.

The biggest regional declines in inspections was in Wales, where inspections declined by 57%, followed by the South East (51%) and London (46%).

Unite’s research also revealed a decline in the number of enforcement notices following an inspection. These fell by 51% from 2,293 in 2013/14 to just 1,119 in 2021/22.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “These figures are shocking, as they demonstrate that the HSE are either unwilling or unable to ensure the safety of construction workers.

“Construction is a dangerous industry, made more dangerous by unscrupulous employers who risk workers’ lives by ignoring safety laws. If the HSE fails to ensure safety, then deaths and injuries will increase.

“The safest sites are union organised workplaces where independent union safety reps are able to challenges safety concerns and keep their fellow workers safe. Unite is unstinting in its campaign to increase organisation and reduce deaths throughout the construction industry.”

HSE has been contacted for comment.

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  1. I would be interested to know how many serious accidents are glossed over with no investigation and only the issue of an improvement notice.

    Young unsecured farmworker fell 4m onto concrete from the top of a 2.3m container that was being lifted by a telehandler on straps hung on forks and supervised by the farm owner. Operator did not have correct training and was partially deaf.

    No prosecution only improvement notice. Even when asked to review decision

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