The construction industry is facing a serious risk of an increase in the number of deaths or serious injuries on building sites, according to a former government adviser on the sector.

Baroness Donaghy, who wrote the report ‘One Death Too Many’ for the last Labour government, said that, as a result of budget cuts to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and as construction activity picks up, the number of site-related accidents could increase, with the industry sitting on “a ticking time bomb.”

Donaghy said: “If there is an upturn, as is obviously happening in London, there is a danger that skills have been lost during the recession, and people who are insufficiently skilled will be taken on. And that’s when the deaths and accidents will start taking place. There is a real danger, without a well-resourced HSE, that corners will be cut.”

The number of deaths at construction sites in London, where construction output is strongest, has recently doubled, and 760 workers have died in industrial accidents on building sites since 2001.

The construction industry has also taken on increasing numbers of casual workers over the past two decades, and only 10% of construction workers are trade union members.

Gerard Stilliard, a senior accident at work solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors, commented: “In cutting so called red tape, the government is actually cutting corners in health and safety. Inspections simply don't happen anymore thanks to government cuts, and whilst that may suit their friends in business it massively exposes the workers who make the company profits.

“Construction sites are fundamentally dangerous places to work, and if appropriate health and safety measures are not in place then serious accidents, even fatalities, will happen. Only yesterday there were reports of a man’s death while working on a construction site in Grosvenor Square.

“We see what poor safety standards mean in the cases we deal with for those who are injured. We should be raising standards not slashing them if we want to avoid a sharp increase in the number of workplace accidents. If the Government doesn't listen and people are badly injured or even die they must take the blame.”