Health should be made as important as safety
8 May 2012
Recent research by IES shows that taking a serious approach to ill-heath, as well as safety, on construction projects is a highly effective measure. The research, carried out for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), examined the occupational health provision on the Olympic Park and Olympic Village.
The ODA made a strong public commitment to safety, resulting in a remarkably good safety record that was recognised in the form of a five star award for safety from the British Safety Council. To accomplish the ODA’s priority of achieving excellence in health and safety management, a comprehensive occupational health service was established, offering free support and advice to all contractors from a multi-disciplinary team of nurses, physicians, physiotherapists and occupational hygienists.
This research was commissioned to track the progress and assess the impact of the service. It drew on surveys of workers and managers on the Olympic Park and Village construction projects, as well as interviews with other stakeholders. The aim was to identify the impact of the occupational health interventions on the attitudes, behaviours and exposures to health risks of people on site and the influence on future behaviours of contractors and workers on the project.
The lead author of the report, Claire Tyers, commented
‘Although the construction industry has taken great strides on safety, the many benefits of taking a similar approach to health are not being fully exploited. By taking a proper forward look at what is likely to affect people’s health on site, and planning work to manage any health risks, there are hugely important gains to be made – as the world-class approach at the Olympic Park and Village shows.’
Lawrence Waterman, Head of Health and Safety at the ODA, said:
‘We hope that one of the enduring legacies from London 2012 will be the lessons learned from the health and safety programme. An extremely low accident rate - unprecedented in a UK project of this scale – was reinforced with high levels of reporting, giving full confidence in our data. However, it was the occupational health programme that gave many of us the most satisfaction. We know that many more workers have their health damaged at work than are injured in accidents, and with IES’s professional scrutiny we now have clear evidence that our programme was an investment that yielded tangible positive rewards. The business case for occupational health has never looked stronger.’