Around 300 sites were shut down during a Health and Safety Executive February blitz on over 1,000 refurbishment sites around Great Britain. 'Over one in three construction sites visited put the lives of workers at risk and operated so far below the acceptable standard that our inspectors served 395 enforcement notices and stopped work on 30 per cent of the sites,' said HSE chief executive Geoffrey Podger.
'We stopped work on site immediately during approximately 300 inspections because we felt there was a real possibility that life would be lost or ruined through serious injury.' He said HSE inspectors 'were appalled at the blatant disregard for basic health and safety precautions,' adding: 'It is totally unacceptable that so many lives have been put at risk and we will take all action necessary to protect workers, including closing sites and prosecuting those responsible. The construction industry should take ownership of this issue and do more to tackle poor standards on sites.'
Last year over half of the workers who died on construction sites worked in refurbishment, and the number of deaths on refurbishment sites rose by 61 per cent.
USA: Latino workers most likely to die
Each year, nearly 6,000 workers die on while working in the United States. Since the federal government began compiling these statistics, the number of workplace fatalities has been fairly constant - except among Latinos.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that Latino workers' fatality rate was 21 per cent higher than all workers in 2006. This is against a backdrop where the US overall is already a more prolific workplace killer than most wealthy nations.
The US Department of Labor reports that in 2006, there were nearly 1,000 Latino workplace-related deaths in the US. That's the highest number since 1992, when BLS began collecting the data. 'It doesn't surprise me to hear that statistic,' commented Len Welsh, chief of Cal-OSHA, California's workplace safety enforcement agency. He said his agency is largely complaint-driven, and Latinos often don't complain.
'Union shops are more likely to complain to us about hazards than non-union shops, and workers who are native speakers of English are more likely to complain to us than workers who are not.' Welsh said safety agencies have been turning to Latino union and community groups to act as intermediaries, encouraging Latino workers to report dangerous work conditions.
One is the union-oriented Labor Occupational Health Program at University of California-Berkeley. Suzanne Teran, the bilingual training coordinator for the UC-Berkeley programme, said one of the biggest challenges is informing Latino immigrants that they have the right to work in a safe environment. Notions that workers have safety rights and can call in the enforcement agency 'are not the ones they grew up with in their home country, and so that's something that really needs to be addressed.' She added that Latinos - especially those who are working illegally in the US - are often working in the most hazardous jobs but fear deportation if they report dangerous work conditions to OSHA.