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HSE looks to tighten building inspection rules

TOUGHER REGULATIONS covering inspection and maintenance of buildings and structures are being considered by the Health & Safety Executive.

Under its revision of the current regulations, the HSE could incorporate EU solidity and stability requirements into the Workplace Regulations that could require building owners to inspect the structure on a regular basis.

Speaking at the BRE's seminar on multi-storey car parks (NCE last week), Health & Safety Executive principal specialist inspector Brian Neale said the move would formally incorporate the requirements of the 1989 EU's Workplace Directive into UK regulations.

'Until now the HSE has taken the view that the provisions of the Building Regulations met the Directive's requirements, ' Neale said.

'But events like the Piper's Row collapse have shown there is a potential grey area in this approach. In practice the Building Regulations are rarely applied to structures in use.'

Precise definitions of what such new requirements on solidity and stability would encompass have still to be finalised, Neale added. One possible draft discussed at the seminar included: 'A building or structure to have a stability and solidity appropriate to the nature of the work and of the use of the workplace'.

This could include requirements to ensure the safety of people around the building - at risk from falling masonry, for example.

Multi-storey car parks, toll bridges and similar structures also exist in something of a grey area, the seminar heard. While staff work in them and maintain them, their primary purpose is not to be places of work.

Neale told delegates, including representatives of car park operators, that the HSE would consult widely on the proposed revisions before final decisions were taken. 'We are not planning to impose new, onerous duties on building owners, ' he added.

'But we do expect them to behave reasonably and responsibly.

'We also believe that more rigorous inspection and maintenance procedures will pay off when the structure needs to be repaired, modified or demolished.'

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