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Clean up your safety act, HSE warns architects

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned that architects must radically reform their attitudes to construction safety or face legislative action.

The HSE hopes to force architects to take safety issues more seriously during the design stage.

Measures could include reform of the Construction Design Management (CDM) regulations or more far-reaching changes in the law. It will be producing a report of its recommendations within the next few weeks.

A senior insider at the HSE's Construction Division told the AJ it was pushing government to force a 'culture change'.

'The HSE is determined to change the architecture profession, ' he said. 'The culture is that it is not part of construction and this needs to be reformed. They need to see it as their industry too.'

Design Build Foundation's director of operations Nigel Finn confirmed the HSE was right to be concerned.

'Although it would be wrong to say that architects are often culpable for deaths, it is true that they rarely take safety into account when designing, ' Finn said.

'I would like to see safety have a much higher profile in the profession's training process. We need to increase its prominence and see the issue debated by architects. I want to encourage collaborative working on safety between the different strands of the industry.'

However the RIBA's assistant director of practice, Brendan O'Connor, defended architects as the 'scapegoats' of the construction industry.

'We get blamed for all the industry's failings even when they are nothing to do with us, ' he claimed.

'We are as enthusiastic as anybody else in our efforts to cut site deaths, ' he added. 'But because architects are higher profile than most of the rest of the industry, they often get the blame. It is simply not fair.'

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