A targeted inspection focussing on health risks for construction workers saw enforcement action taken at one in six of hundreds of sites visited.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out proactive inspections across the UK over two weeks, a concentrated effort which led to the body demanding improvements.
In at last 13 instances the HSE said it was forced to call for an immediate stop to work activities, where they fell short of expected standards.
A total of 560 sites were visited and enforcement notices were served at 85 of them.
Thirteen Prohibition Notices were served, where certain work or practices must be stopped until improvements are made, and 107 Improvement Notices were handed out. In all, a total of 239 health-related Notices of Contravention were served at 201 of the sites.
Inspectors focussed on significant health risk issues, such as respiratory risks from dusts containing silica materials, exposure to other hazardous substances such as cement and lead paint, manual handling, noise and vibration.
HSE’s chief inspector, Heather Bryant, said: “We recognise the construction sector’s progress in reducing the number of people killed and injured by its activities. But it is clear from these figures that there is an unacceptable toll of ill-health and fatal disease in the industry.
“So, to encourage the industry to treat health issues in the same way as safety, HSE’s inspectors will consolidate the efforts of this initiative throughout the rest of the year by looking at the prevention and control of health risks in construction, alongside their continued assessment of the management of safety risk issues.
“We will make sure the construction industry ‘Thinks health’ as well as safety.”
Major North East employer Balfour Beatty, meanwhile, halted work at its sites right across the UK and Ireland yesterday as part of an annual drive to shine a spotlight on improving safety standards. The firm, which employ around 850 people across the region, stopped work for an hour on 750 sites in a drive involving around 20,000 staff and subcontractors.