UK construction workers 'at risk' since government cuts

10/07/13

James, Dan and Matthew Sharod and Billy Higley

The safety of construction workers in the UK is at risk, say trade unions.

Unite and the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (Ucatt) claim that since the government made budget cuts three years ago, a growing number of people in the industry are more unsafe at work.

The Health and Safety Executive's budget (HSE) is expected to be cut by more than a third by 2015.

We feel it's an outrage. There's blood on people's hands. We're not talking about the playground and conkers. We're talking about hard, brutal, manual industries
Steve Murphy
UCATT General Secretary

The government says changes mean guidance has improved and is clearer.

Ministers claim the way they have reviewed some safety laws is still offering the same level of protection.

Steve Murphy, the general secretary of Ucatt, said: "We feel it's an outrage. There's blood on people's hands.

"We're not talking about the playground and conkers. We're talking about hard, brutal, manual industries."

In the last three years the HSE has got rid of a telephone helpline for construction workers and withdrawn some safety laws.

James, Dan and Matthew Sharod and Billy Higley

Brothers James, Matthew and Dan Sharod are electricians in their 20s. Their brother-in-law, 19-year-old Billy Higley (right), also does the same job.

"We feel the rules are good at the moment," they said. "There shouldn't be more as they're quite tight. It's drilled into us every day, the rules we should follow."

There are almost two million construction workers in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Ucatt says construction is the most dangerous industry in the UK and claims there were more than 2,000 serious injuries in 2011/12.

Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, said safety had to be a priority: "Construction workers need urgent action. The government attack on health and safety must be reversed."

Bricks on building site

The latest figures show the number of construction workers in England, Scotland and Wales who have died doing their job has fallen over the last year.

Thirty-nine were killed between April 2012 and March 2013, down from 48 the year before.

In Northern Ireland, there has been one death over the same period.

A spokesperson for the HSE said: "By reviewing and improving guidance and removing regulations replicated elsewhere, more people will be able do what is required to manage the real risks that cause death and serious injury in the workplace."

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