THE HEALTH & Safety Executive (HSE) must place greater emphasis on education and awareness-raising in its construction industry campaigns, the National Audit Office has warned.
In its first investigation into the HSE's work in construction for 10 years, the audit office has concluded that prosecutions alone are not enough to change industry awareness.
'The number of sites and firms (in the industry) makes it difficult to raise standards solely through site inspections, ' says the NAO report.
The HSE's emphasis since April 2002 on designers' responsibility for safety through the Construction Design & Management (CDM) regulations is a key area singled out by the report.
Consultant Andrew Allan, whose trial collapsed three weeks ago, believes punitive prosecution is not the way to raise engineers' safety consciousness (see page 18).
The NAO is broadly supportive of the HSE campaign to target construction in general and designers in particular. And it welcomes efforts to make the issue clearer with recent revision of the CDM regulations.
But not all designers have become aware of their responsibilities, it says.
'The HSE should build on its Safety & Health Awareness days by tackling designers who have a key role to play in promoting health and safety at the project development stage, ' say the recommendations.
It should also seek improved education by promoting health and safety issues in examination syllabuses, and should 'raise the profile of. . . the design stage by seeking greater publicity for good design practice and highlighting bad practice.'
Overall it says the HSE needs to be more in touch with the industry 'by translating high level targets into lower level more tangible measures.'
Apart from designers the NAO underlines support for bringing more health and safety awareness into government and public sector procurement.
Clients focus 'too much on the lowest price in tender evaluation and not enough on issues like whole life cost that take account of health and safety, ' concludes the report.