Pedantic health and safety law interpretations are stifling growth and act as a barrier to new firms entering the fitting-out industry, a business leader has claimed.
Graham Granville, managing director of Bromsgrovebased Zircom Data Communications, labelled working regulations at new or refurbished offices as "heinous" and claimed they were making it "increasingly difficult to work".
Mr Granville, whose business installs data cables into offices, said while he considered health and safety a priority, some site agents' rules were "intolerable".
"On many sites you can no longer use ladders or stand on anything other than an approved platform," he said.
"If I wanted to reach an extra six inches, I would have to hire a platform, find a person who has completed the approved training to install it and make sure there was a back barrier.
"All that for six inches. It's unworkable. Surely it would save time and money if contractors had proper training in ladders?"
Mr Granville said compulsory and lengthy safety inductions were also a blow.
"Everyone who enters a site - whether to use explosive gases or deliver sandwiches - has to go through a site induction," he said.
"These can take up to four hours and, more often than not, they go over the same issues every time.
"Even when we work with the same site agent we are forced to sit through the same thing again at every new site."
Although Zircom - which has an annual turnover of £6 million a year - can afford to pay £20,000 a year for a health and safety consultant, Mr Granville said the cost of complying with legislation was disastrous for new businesses.
"For established firms these regulations mean we have to try and pass on some of the costs to the customer, which puts up prices.
"But for those coming into the business the investment needed to comply with all the complicated legislation is prohibitive."
He said the bureaucracy was in danger of making safety on sites more difficult and called on the Government's Health and Safety Executive to create a standard, similar to ISO9000, that would guarantee the safety of the contractor.
Paul Reeve, health and safety advisor for the Electrical Contractors Association, said he understood clients over-interpreted regulation.
"Induction can be very valuable process, but we do see examples of people being told simple health and safety information," he said.
"That is useful if they are someone who doesn't know about health and safety but, if they don't, you have to question why they are on a site in the first place.
"We believe that provided someone is coming onto site with a competency card, showing they have taken a health and safety course then they should only need to be told about hazards specific to that site."
Mr Reeve added new regulations introduced last year had left many confused about how to deal with the use of ladders on sites.
"There is no legal ban on ladders, but when the Work at Height Regulations came into force a number of clents banned them to be on the safe side," he said. "We advise that contractors agree with the client beforehand how they are going to carry out work on site and whether ladders can be used."
Mr Reeve said he agreed with Mr Granville that too much paperwork was detrimental to health and safety and said the ECA was working with the HSE to create a list of criteria that could be used to judge a company's record.
"We have avoided the use of standards because they can be quite costly and small and micro businesses would struggle to pay for them," Mr Reeve said.
"We hope our criteria, which will be launched in September, will stop some clients from over specifying what they need from contractors to prove they are safe."