An investigation has uncovered safety failings in two out of every five building sites.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) spent a month studying construction firms to see whether employees and members of the public were being protected sufficiently.
It has since issued formal enforcement action to over a fifth of the sites it visited over the course of the inquiry.
A spokesman from the HSE said that many of the issues it spotted during the exercise could have been easily prevented.
Philip White, the HSE’s chief of construction, said that the results demonstrated that while the majority of construction firms are addressing health and safety correctly, there is still “a significant part of the industry” which is failing to protect from accidents at work.
Basic safety failings
Many of the failings were basic safety measures for people working at height, but there were also issues surrounding contact with asbestos, exposure to harmful dusts, noise and vibration and insufficient welfare.
Mr White said some firms’ inability to protect those working at height was a “major issue” and procedures to guard against accidents weren’t difficult to put in place.
He said it was “not acceptable” that inspectors had to halt work immediately on over 200 occasions because of the potentially dangerous practices being carried out on building sites.
Steve Murphy, general secretary of the construction workers’ union UCATT, described the findings as appalling and said it was worried about the amount of time employers were endangering staff.
He said the HSE had uncovered “basic and straightforward” breaches of health and safety practice that could easily have caused an accident in the workplace.
Mr Murphy called for more emphasis to be put on uncovering dangerous practices and punishing the companies who put their employees at risk.
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