SITE DEATHS for the six months to September this year have rocketed by 60% compared to the same period last year.
Provisional figures issued in an emergency notice by the Health & Safety Executive show that 62 workers died in construction accidents between April and September against 39 over the same period in 1999.
The statistics, described by the HSE as 'appalling', show that site deaths are running at twice their level two years ago.
Those killed included 44 employees, 14 self-employed and four members of the public.
'This level of fatalities is shocking and clearly unacceptable, ' said HSE chief construction Inspector Kevin Myers. 'We need to change the risk tolerant culture of the entire construction industry, including clients and designers.'
The increase comes despite a number of initiatives such as Movement for Innovation's Respect for People and the HSE's Working Well Together as well as the personal involvement of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. Prescott met HSE chiefs in August to discuss the 20% annual increase in accidents. A special construction safety summit is due in February.
The HSE said that all levels of the industry needed to improve.
'It's major contractors, designers, the lot and not just small backstreet firms, ' a spokesman said.
He added that lack of employee representation on safety issues had been identified as one of the causes of the rise.
Transport & General Workers Union national construction secretary Bob Blackman said: 'This is horrendous news. The industry needs to be policed with more HSE inspectors and those guilty should be punished severely by the courts.'