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Prescott gives construction six months to improve safety

CONSTRUCTION HAS six months to start a revolution to improve safety or face being forced to do so by a new Safety Bill, deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said this week.

Prescott issued the warning at the specially convened Health & Safety Commission construction safety summit on Tuesday.

'This is the final opportunity for the industry to have a major shift in attitude and approach and to turn around its culture and performance, ' he told delegates.

'I am looking to you to deliver.

But I warn you that if you fail to turn this around, then I will have no option but to use the opportunity given me by the new Safety Bill.'

Construction minister Nick Raynsford said he expected companies representing 50% of construction turnover to sign up to measuring their health and safety performance.

Results are to be collated and passed to him by the pan-industry Construction Industry Board, starting from its next regular six-monthly meeting with the Government. A followup summit is to be held in October to assess developments.

'Change is imperative, ' Raynsford said. 'Government has got to see progress.'

The Safety Summit was called to address the rapid increase in construction accidents. Fatalities now stand at 92 for the nine months between April and December last year, making construction one of the most dangerous industries in the country.

The 500 business leaders at Tuesday's Westminster summit agreed to cut accidents by 10% year on year for the next four years and by two thirds by the end of the decade.

Key initiatives included:

Achieving complete registration of all workers in the industry within two years Increasing the number of union safety representatives on site Improving training for 1.5M workers over the next two to three years A zero tolerance campaign for bad safety practice by contractors Design teams to do safety audits on their designs Commitment by clients to health and safety principles.

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