He told the Construction Safety Summit Conference in London that he wanted construction firms accounting for half of the industry's turnover signed up to the new plans and targets by the end of the year.
Key targets include:
* cutting deaths and major injuries by 40% over the next four years and by two-thirds by the end of the decade and.
* cutting cases of work related ill health and injury and days lost by 20% over the next four years and by half by the end of the decade
In a keynote address to the conference - supported by all sides of the industry - he said:
'The commitments you have made today, and the tough targets you have set, give us the best chance in a generation of changing the way we care for people working in the construction industry.
'It is totally unacceptable that, for much of last year, two construction workers were killed each week and, that in the space of nine days, five people died.
'In industry generally there has been a 75% reduction in fatalities over 25 years since the Health and Safety at Work Act. But this industry is bucking the trend and is still six times more dangerous than the average industry. There have been significant improvements in the past, but these have slowed down and the past
year has shown a significant increase in fatalities.
'We owe it to those we have failed in the past to succeed in the future and to make health and safety everyone's top priority.'
Other safety plans and targets put forward at the conference include:
* achieving complete registration of all workers in the industry within two years.
* increasing the number of safety representatives.
* improving training and skills for more than one-and-a- half million workers in the industry over the next two to three years.
* annual publication of health and safety performance on Government construction contracts.
* a zero tolerance campaign to bad safety practices by construction contractors.
* commitment by those who place orders to the clients' charter and, through it, to commit to best health and safety practice in design and on site.
* targeting high-risk activities, such as transport and falls from heights.
The safety plans and targets will be co-ordinated by the construction industry board and the Health and Safety Commission's Construction Industry Advisory Committee, and, for government clients, the Office of Government Commerce will make regular reports to ministers. A follow-up conference will be held next October to measure progress.
1. Today's Construction Safety Summit was hosted by Bill Callaghan, chair of the Health and Safety Commission. In addition to the deputy prime minister, four DETR ministers - Nick Raynsford, Michael Meacher, Lord Whitty and Beverley Hughes - took part and there were individual presentations by the Confederation of Construction Clients, the Major Contractors Group, the Construction Products Association, UCATT/TUC, Construction Industry Employers' Council, Construction Industry Council, Constructors Liaison Group, Engineering Construction Industry Association and the Construction Industry Training Board.
2. At the 'Rethinking Construction' conference in July 1999, construction minister Nick Raynsford, on behalf of the deputy prime minister, challenged the industry to radically improve its performance across the whole range of respect for people issues - on diversity, site conditions, welfare, training and health and safety.
3. Launching 'Revitalising Health and Safety' last year, ministers put the industry on notice to improve its health and safety performance.
4. Last summer, the deputy prime minister asked the Health and Safety Commission to organise today's summit and, in November and December last year, ministers held preparatory meetings with employers and employee representatives.