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Insight

The Construction Industry and Fatal Injury – A Growing Trend

In November 2016, the Health and Safety Executive ("HSE") published a report analysing statistics for health and safety at work, covering areas such as work-related ill health and workplace injuries. The statistics show that while there has been a long-term downward trend in the rate of fatal injury, particularly since the 1980s, in recent years this has shown signs of levelling off. Construction remains a sector with statistically significantly higher injury rates compared to others, and various companies and contractors have faced substantial fines for breaches of health and safety regulations. It is therefore vital that commercial clients operating within the construction sector understand their legal duties.

In November 2016, the Health and Safety Executive ("HSE") published a report analysing statistics for health and safety at work, covering areas such as work-related ill health and workplace injuries. Drawing on data produced by the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 ("RIDDOR") and the Labour Force Survey, the report highlights the growth rate of self-reported work-related illness and injuries by industry, revealing that construction has 'statistically significantly higher' injury rates compared to others. According to RIDDOR, in recent years the worker fatal injury rate in the construction sector is over 3.5 times the average rate across all industries.

Since the introduction of the new health and safety sentencing guidelines in February 2016, a number of construction companies have faced substantial fines for serious breaches of health and safety regulations; the main accidents causing either fatal injuries or fatalities at work are being struck by a moving vehicle, falling from height or being struck or injured by a moving object.

Furthermore, RIDDOR have reported that 137 workers were killed at work in 2016/17. The proportion of workers killed in the construction industry outweighs any other industry, which is why robust health and safety practices and procedures should be of paramount importance to the boards of construction companies. Construction companies should be aware that they may face liability under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 or the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 ("CMCHA 2007") in the event of the death of an employee or a member of the public. Under CMCHA 2007, an offence will be committed where failings by an organisation's senior management are a significant element in any gross breach of the duty of care owed to the organisation's employees which results in death.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 ("CDM 2015") came into force on 6 April 2015 and applies to the whole construction process, from concept to completion. The Regulations set out and explain what clients must do to ensure any construction work is carried out safely. For example commercial clients are under a duty to appoint and work with a principal designer to assess existing health and safety policies, ensure a construction phase plan is drawn up before the construction phase begins and ensure the principal contractor prepares a full health and safety file. The Regulations also place duties on the principal designer and contractors involved.

As the HSE have emphasised, CDM 2015 is not about creating unnecessary and unhelpful processes – it is about ensuring that clients, contractors, designers and builders work together to secure effective health and safety policies. Serious breaches of health and safety legislation could not only lead to construction work being stopped by HSE or your local authority, but also to fines, disqualification and imprisonment, as recent reports have shown.

As construction presents a broad range of potential hazards for workers, third parties and members of the public, it is vital that commercial clients operating within the sector understand their legal duties under CDM 2015 and implement effective risk assessment procedures if they are to avoid facing significant fines for failing to comply with the necessary health and safety requirements.

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