Health & safety spot checks in Borders

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REFURBISHMENT sites in the Borders have been warned to expect unannounced inspections in a crackdown on poor health- and-safety practices, starting from today, writes Kenny Paterson.

The Health and Safety Executive wants to cut the number of injuries reported on Borders construction sites, after 27 workers were hurt in the region during 2009/2010.

Across Scotland, two workers died during refurbishment, repair and maintenance activities, and another died while employed in construction.

Officials of the HSE will focus on ensuring that sites are managing work at height safely, as well as checking that the risk of exposure to asbestos is being properly managed.

In a similar campaign last year, inspectors visited 276 sites and 376 contractors across Scotland.

They issued 82 enforcement notices across 77 sites, and were forced to issue 62 prohibition notices to stop dangerous work – much of it relating to working from height.

Principal inspector John Blackburn said: “This will be the fifth year that we have run the inspection initiative across Britain and we anticipate that that there will be examples of both good and bad practice – those where employers are taking all the measures they can to protect their workers and those where safety is way down the list of priorities.”

He warned that a lax attitude to health and safety in one of the more dangerous industries was not acceptable, especially when many of the incidents were completely avoidable by taking common sense actions and precautions.

And the inspector went on: “As we have demonstrated in previous years, we will not hesitate to take action if we find poor practice that is putting the lives of workers at risk.

“This year, as part of ensuring risks from asbestos are properly managed, we will also be checking that, where appropriate, asbestos surveys have been carried out prior to any refurbishment work.

“Many workers believe that, because asbestos has been banned as a building material, it’s no longer a threat to them. But that simply isn’t true. Any premises built or refurbished before 2000 could contain asbestos.”