DRIVING CULTURE CHANGE
214. Whilst we believe inspection is important,
particularly for the housing repair and maintenance sector, creating
a culture of health and safety is ultimately the most effective
means of reducing workplace deaths and injuries. Both government
and the formal industry have in recent years worked to engender
this culture change, although there is clearly further progress
to be made.
215. One of the most important recent developments
has been the introduction of the new Construction, Design and
Management (CDM) Regulations 2007. These aim to improve health
and safety in construction by placing a greater emphasis on effective
planning and risk management at the outset of a project, as well
as reducing paper work and encouraging team work.
The Specialist Engineering Contractors' (SEC) Group told us that
up to 60% of fatalities on construction sites can be attributed
to choices made before work on site begins.
The CDM Regulations place shared legal duties on virtually everyone
involved in construction projectsclients, designers, contractors,
sub-contractors, and workersrecognising that improved health
and safety performance requires the engagement of all stakeholders.
The new regulations have been generally well-received by the industry.
The Construction Confederation said "it is a great piece
The primary reason for this is that CDM increases the role of
the client in ensuring adequate consideration of health and safety,
and also promotes integrated team working. Indeed, the only critic
of the Regulations was the industry body that represents clients.
The Construction Clients' Group (CCG) had a legitimate concern
that the CDM Regulations had not been drafted to enable small,
infrequent clients to comply with their obligations. The CCG is
currently working on a proposal to help resolve this issue. It
is also disappointing that the Approved Code of Practice, which
provides practical guidance on complying with the Regulations,
is not free to download from the HSE website. Instead, it is available
by mail order at a cost of £15. This can only hamper the
dissemination of good practice on compliance.
216. Whilst the CDM Regulations provide the legal
basis for much greater client involvement, there are additional
ways in which procurers, particularly the public sector, can show
leadership in promoting health and safety. For example, considering
whole-life, by definition, requires the factoring in to the planning
process of heath and safety concerns. The long-term benefit is
a reduction in the costly delays that arise from accidents. The
Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) is also an important
driver of health and safety. As noted above, the OGC requires
all workers on public sector construction sites to have registered
for the Scheme. Sir Michael Latham, Chairman of ConstructionSkills,
however, expressed his surprise that this is not enforced.
The Construction Confederation also cited survey evidence that
only 52% of respondents were required to undergo a health and
safety assessment during the bidding process for public sector
projects. Whilst there are some examples of best practice, such
as Jobcentre Plus, Defence Estates and Birmingham City Council,
it described government's performance as at best "patchy".
217. Yet government's purchasing power cannot
foster culture change in the housing repair and maintenance sector,
where homeowners are not subject to the CDM Regulations and are
not likely to be aware of the Construction Skills Certification
Scheme. Here, only radical steps to address the size of the informal
economy are likely to improve the sector's health and safety record.
The Construction Confederation noted that "domestic consumers
continue to be attracted to cheap cash deals".
Its proposal is to reduce the rate of VAT on all repair and maintenance
work to 5% so as to remove the competitive advantage of those
who avoid registration for VAT. Some parts of the sector already
benefit from a reduced rate, such as conversion of residential
buildings to a different residential use, and for the installation
of microgeneration technologies. Given that over half the sector
operates in the informal economy, the Federation of Master Builders
argued that such a move could actually increase the overall amount
of tax revenue from the sector.
218. We welcome the Strategic
Forum's commitment to ambitious targets for reducing the number
of workplace fatalities and major injuries over the coming years.
After a period of steady decline in construction fatalities since
the turn of the century, the number of deaths has increased significantly
since 2005/06. Housing repair and maintenance has had the worst
record, primarily because so much of the sector operates in the
informal economy. To tackle this the Health and Safety Executive
must devote more resources to inspection, whilst HM Treasury should
look at ways of reducing the size of the informal economy, for
example by conducting a full analysis of the overall consequences
of cutting the rate of VAT on all repair and maintenance work.
219. More generally, government
as client has a vital role to play in improving performance. The
Common Minimum Standards already state that clients should ensure
all contractors are assessed for health and safety when tendering
for work, and all workers should be registered on the Construction
Skills Certification Scheme. But this is not happening. The new
Construction, Design and Management (CDM) Regulations 2007 place
a much greater emphasise on the client's role in ensuring health
and safety, whilst the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide
Act 2007 provides the punishment in the event of a fatality due
to organisational failings. The Government should use both of
these to enforce a change of approach in public sector construction
procurement, and to drive culture change across the sector.