A targeted campaign of construction site inspections has seen enforcement action taken at one in six sites across the UK, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The two-week period of proactive inspections focused on health risks for construction workers, and saw the HSE demand improvements and, in some cases, put an immediate stop to work activities where they fell short of expected standards.

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.

Final figures have yet to be confirmed, but in some situations conditions were so poor that the work had to be stopped on at least 13 occasions.

A total of 560 sites were visited and enforcement notices were served at 85 of them. Prohibition Notices were served in 13 cases (where certain work or practices must be stopped until improvements are made), and 107 Improvement Notices were issued. A total of 239 health-related Notices of Contravention were served at 201 of the sites.

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. 

"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.”

Further information about the Initiative and safe-working in construction can be found online at www.hse.gov.uk/construction