Accidents and Ill Health History

Construction is a large employment sector and one of the most dangerous. As work got underway for the 2012 London Games, roughly a third of all UK work fatalities happened in construction and the fatal injury rate of 6.0 per 100,000 workers (2000/2001) was over three times the average rate across all industries. The London 2012 program was estimated by ODA project managers to require about 100 million person hours to be worked. A simple analysis indicated that if the works reflected the industry averages, even biasing them towards the lower rate for major projects, it would result in three worksite deaths and about 750 serious injury accidents of which a third would be life-changing (injuries from which there would not be a full physical recovery) (HSE n.d.). The data on health was just as concerning, albeit almost matched by the paucity of reliable information - ill health has historically been poorly identified, recorded, and reported - with estimates of tens of thousands of workers suffering from work-related ill health each year and up to 40,000 of these being new cases. Taking just one aspect, in 2005, just as work was getting underway, about 8,000 occupational cancer deaths were recorded, of which 3,500 were assigned to the construction sector which employed only about 7% of the national workforce. The poor record of construction, addressed by special summits involving business leaders and politicians and regulations targeting poor management in the sector, encouraged many of those involved to seize on the London 2012 program as an opportunity to effect a step change in health and safety management (Prescott 2001).

Health and Safety Commitments

Working together and in parallel, the Strategic Forum for Construction developed and published the “2012 Construction Commitments”. Under the headings of procurement and integration, commitment to people, client leadership, sustainability, design quality, and health and safety, it sought to map out the key factors identified to improve the industry that in 2006 represented almost 10% of UK gross domestic product (GDP). The ODA worked up in more detail what it sought from its contractors in its “Health and Safety Standard”, which outlined aspects of the management system required but not standardized: from competent workers and training to behavioral safety programs, participation in the national “Considerate Constructors” scheme (CCS n.d.), and incorporation of the “Respect for People” guidelines referenced in the commitments document. Much of this material was based on reports from Constructing Excellence, an industry and government supported body which was formed under the impetus of two key reports into construction (Latham 1994; Egan 2014; Constructing Excellence 2015).

There were headline targets, such as zero fatalities, never previously achieved for the base build of an Olympic Games, and requirements to engage with occupational hygiene and health services provided by the ODA through “Park Health” established on the park and within the Athletes’ Village sites to address the occupational health needs of day-to-day construction activities and the large workforce. The Standard, for example, in later editions following its launch in 2006, published a red/amber/ green list of design considerations largely drawn up for the ODA by a partnership between engineering design companies Arup and Atkins appointed to design the infrastructure of the north and the south of the park respectively. This sought to reduce the use of hazardous substances and dust-producing processes and encourage off-site manufacture and other techniques known to enhance risk control.

Health and Safety Program

The ODA established a program that stepped through the elements required for a comprehensive approach to health and safety. This is shown in Figure 8.1.

The philosophy was straightforward: establishing the health and safety aims and aspirations of the program and outlining some of the key methods to be employed created a framework documented in the Standard and written into the construction contracts employing the whole supply chain. Each company within that supply chain was then required to employ its management system to embed and work towards those aims. The destination and some of the steps were laid down by the ODA, but the detailed work was undertaken by each company employed on the program and so there was a high degree of variability in style. Some of the construction teams

ODA approach to health and safety

FIGURE 8.1 ODA approach to health and safety.

Management and Leadership 133

were led by quite charismatic people, others operated as much more of an integrated team, but all worked coherently within the framework and auditing by the ODA and its delivery partner assured and intervened as necessary. In management, most of the organizations had formal systems based on OHSAS 18001 (now superseded by ISO 45001) or similar to it, but again style varied from the highly consultative to something that looked much more compliance-driven “command and control”. This was, perhaps, one area where the ODA approach encouraged more respect for the site workers and considerably more engagement with them in the development rather than just the policing of site work practices (IES 2013).

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