Union urges government to enforce, rather than cut, safety laws

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Figures obtained by construction union UCATT show there was a large increase in construction fatalities involving self-employed workers last year.

In total there were 49 construction deaths in 2011/12 of which the Health and Safety Executive have recorded that 22 involved self-employed workers, 45% of all construction fatalities.

In 2010/11 36% of construction deaths involved self-employed workers and in the last seven years the previous highest number of construction deaths involving self-employed workers was in 2008/09 when 38% of fatalities were self-employed workers.

UCATT general secretary Steve Murphy said: “This rise in deaths among self-employed workers is very worrying. Self-employed workers frequently work on sites where safety levels are lower and are therefore more vulnerable to suffering an accident or injury.”

While the number of self-employed workers being killed has increased, UCATT believes that the figure could still be an underestimate, as the HSE on occasion records false self-employed workers as employees in order to improve the likelihood of making a successful prosecution following the death of a worker.

The rise in deaths of self-employed construction workers comes at a particularly sensitive time as the HSE at the government’s direction is currently consulting on removing some self-employed workers from health and safety legislation. While these proposals do not currently include construction there are concerns that the policy will be extended in the future, as part of the government’s desire to “cut red tape”.

Steve Murphy said: “Every one of these deaths was an individual tragedy and many could easily have been prevented. Rather than cutting safety, the government should be ensuring that existing laws are properly enforced.”


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