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HSE conducts 3,337 covid spot checks in construction

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has conducted a total of 3,337 spot checks on construction sites since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and has so far made one prosecution, it has revealed.

The news came as a contractor was fined after multiple health and safety issues were found during one such spot check at a site in Manchester.

Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard that on 9 July 2020, an HSE inspector identified issues relating to working at height, welfare, covid-19, site security, and electricity. The principal contractor was served with a prohibition notice and two improvement notices.

A return inspection was made on 17 August 2020, after very little communication from the principal contractor. The HSE found little or no improvements had been made regarding the issues and additional enforcement action was required, including a further prohibition notice regarding an unsupported excavation.

It was subsequently established that the contractor had failed to comply with any of the improvement notices the HSE had served.

Principal contractor Umar Akram Khatab, now resident in Hollingwood Lane, Bradford, pleaded guilty to breaches of Section 21 of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. He was sentenced to a 12-month community order and ordered to pay £3,000 towards costs and a victim surcharge of £95.

HSE inspector Rebecca Vaudrey said: “HSE prides itself on being a proportionate and evidence-based regulator. Since the beginning of the pandemic HSE has carried out more than 316,000 covid spot checks, with the priority to urgently make workplaces safe from transmission risks, rather than heavy-handed enforcement.

“These checks have demonstrated that the majority of employers want to do the right thing to ensure their workers go home safe and well.

“This is the first prosecution to arise from the spot check programme. We’ve repeatedly stressed that prosecution is a last resort, but this case clearly illustrates that where there is consistent disregard to covid or other risks to employees’ health and safety, HSE will use its powers to take action.”

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