HSE ‘refused to investigate’ health and safety breaches reported by subcontractor

An industry insider said he felt his experience of dangerous workplaces was not taken seriously by the regulator.

19 Feb 2021| News

Trade magazine, Construction News, has reported that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) refused to look into complaints of health and safety breaches because they did not consider a subcontractor’s testimony to be “credible evidence”.

In emails to the watchdog, a person described an “experienced industry insider” reported dangerous conditions on three sites they had recently visited.

Among their allegations were a lack of safety inductions, workers not wearing appropriate PPE, project managers not producing relevant safety cards, Risk Assessment Method Statement not being displayed or discussed, and staff not being provided with welfare facilities.

“I don’t know how much clearer I could have been when you receive no safety induction on three separate occasions, see cranes operating in high winds and people are walking around without PPE,” the subcontractor told Construction News.

After deciding not to take on work for the company running the sites on the basis of these breaches, the construction professional reported what they had seen to the HSE.

“Works are being carried out in very unsafe conditions, a simple inspection would clearly demonstrate this,” correspondence seen by Construction News said.

But the HSE replied to say it would “take no further action” to investigate the allegations because the subcontractor had not sufficiently proven their concerns were valid.

“In order for HSE to take forward concerns with the company, we require credible evidence of current and continuing potential breaches of health and safety legislation preferably from a current employee who can provide specific dates, events, sites, locations and if possible photographs and/or video evidence,” the agency explained.

When questioned by Construction News, the HSE appeared to double-down on its position, saying: “Responsibility for health and safety rests with the business, and it is for them to ensure their arrangements comply with appropriate health and safety legislation.”

The subcontractor said they had previously had good experiences with the HSE and that the response on this occasion marked an apparent change of attitude.

“The general feeling is that [HSE] have stopped being proactive and preventive to being just reactive to an incident,” they said.

“I cannot believe they feel they can do their investigations by telephone and by clearly dismissing a report without physically checking out the veracity of the report contraventions.”

They added: “It’s scary that based on a first-hand account of what was going on they wouldn’t go and visit the site.”

“It was really hard to find where to submit a concern to the HSE website and once I had done it felt like I wasn’t taken seriously. If they could only go to these sites, they would see how dangerous things were, there were any number of fines and citations they would make.”