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New inspection drive to target health and safety risks in construction

From Monday 1 September, inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) will begin a two-week programme of unannounced site visits to tackle a number of risks facing local construction workers.

During these site visits, HSENI inspectors will seek improvements where work activities fall short of expected standards. However, if workers are at risk, they will not hesitate to take enforcement action to stop work activities immediately.

The visits will focus on the high-risk activity of working at height, the safe management of the risks from asbestos, the control of silica dust and lifting aids for heavy materials, such as kerbs.

In addition, HSENI inspectors will look at how sites are managed, whether risk assessments are being used properly, if sites are tidy and with good welfare facilities.

To ensure the risks from asbestos are properly managed, HSENI will also check, where appropriate, that asbestos surveys have been carried out prior to any refurbishment or demolition work.

Announcing the new series of inspections, Nancy Henry who heads up HSENI’s construction group said: “Construction is one of the more dangerous industries and a lax attitude to health and safety costs people’s lives.

“Many accidents and risks to health are completely avoidable by putting in place very simple and sensible measures that are well known across the industry.

“HSENI will continue to provide advice to the industry but, as we’ve demonstrated in previous years, HSENI will not hesitate to take action if we find poor practices that are putting the lives of workers at risk.”

During the inspection programme, inspectors will be looking at whether:

  • appropriate precautions are in place on jobs which involve working at height
  • equipment is correctly installed / assembled, inspected and maintained
  • sites are well organised and tidy so as to avoid trips and falls
  • site supervisors have received appropriate training and there are suitable and sufficient risk assessments
  • welfare facilities, such as toilets and canteens, are clean with hot/cold (warm) running water, soap and towels.
  • appropriate control measures are used for jobs generating silica dust, for example water suppression or on-tool extraction
  • all tight-fitting facemasks (RPE) have been face-fit tested within the previous 12 months
  • asbestos surveys are available (where appropriate) and
  • mechanical lifting equipment is being used for kerb laying

For more information about the initiative or advice on safe working in construction, please visit or call the HSENI helpline on: 0800 0320 121.

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