Unsafe practices on construction sites are to be targeted as part of a UK initiative aimed at reducing death, injury and ill health.

Between 18 February and 15 March, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors will make unannounced visits to repair and refurbishment sites to ensure they are managing high-risk activity, such as working at height, said the organisation.

They will also check for general good order, assess welfare facilities and check whether suitable PPE such as head protection, is being used appropriately.

During 2011 and 2012, 49 construction workers were killed and 2,884 major injuries were reported. The purpose of the initiative is to remind those working in the industry that poor standards are unacceptable and could result in enforcement action.

Philip White, HSE chief inspector of construction, said: “Death and injury continue to result from avoidable incidents and it is largely those engaged in refurbishment and repair work who are failing to step up to the mark. Poor management of risks and a lack of awareness of responsibilities is unacceptable.

Mr White, added: “In many cases simple changes to working practices can make all the difference, and can even save lives. Therefore if we find evidence that workers are being unnecessarily put at risk we will take strong action. We are determined to drive the message home that site safety and worker welfare cannot be compromised.”

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