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Construction Inspectors

Volume 175: debated on Tuesday 26 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what plans there are for increasing the number of specialist construction inspectors within the Health and Safety Executive.

In April 1990, the Health and Safety Executive embarked on a year-long recruitment campaign aimed at increasing the number of specialist inspectors in post across all disciplines, including construction.

Is the Minister aware that in 1988–89 there were 540 fatal accidents, mainly in the construction industry, and that it is believed that 90 per cent. of them could have been avoided? Will the Department get itself organised and do something to help to avoid such unnecessary deaths? Is the Minister further aware that many deaths could be avoided if the Department were determined to follow a proper recruitment policy?

I agree with at least some of what the hon. Gentleman says. He is right to draw attention to the fact that the "Blackspot Construction" report estimated that about 90 per cent. of fatalities were preventable, about 70 per cent. by management action. But the hon. Gentleman is wrong to assume that one can automatically reduce the number of accidents and fatalities simply by increasing the number of inspectors. The requests of the Health and Safety Commission have been met in recent years, but ultimately responsibility for preventing fatalities and industrial injuries must lie with those engaged in the workplace.

Will the Minister confirm that the Health and Safety Commission's plan of action has been returned to it by the Secretary of State, and is it connected with its bid for a further £7 million of funding? The Minister says that all its bids in recent years have been accepted. Will the present bid be met in full?

The Health and Safety Commission must discuss with my right hon. and learned Friend its plan of work. Those discussions have taken place and my right hon. and learned Friend has made it clear that sufficient resources to enable it to carry out that plan will be found from within our own resources, so the assurance that I gave the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Eastham) remains true.