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HSE CHIEF CHALLENGES INDUSTRY ON OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH

Workforce ‘wellbeing’ has detracted from traditional construction health issues

The ICE & Costain 2011 Health and Safety Lecture was on the theme of Occupational Health and focused on “whether investment in occupational health brings win-win all round – for the individual, business, and the taxpayer”.

Speakers included Philip White HSE Chief Inspector of Construction and the focus the event was on:

  • Does occupational health make sites safer, reducing the propensity for accidents?
  • Does it improve performance?
  • Does it enhance general wellbeing?
  • Should business be involved in an individual’s health, and invade the GP’s historic territory – or is this ‘personal space’?
  • Is it just philanthropy, or is there a business case for further investment?

Other speakers were Dame Carol Black, National Director for Health and Work and Professor of rheumatology at UCL and Lawrence Waterman Head of Health & Safety at the Olympic Delivery Authority.

Industry has taken “eye off ” the health ball

Mr White was concerned that the unintended consequence of larger firms switching to workforce ‘wellbeing’ was less attention being paid to traditional health risks, such as hand arm vibration and exposure to dust.

In addition, he argued that a big issue for wider industry remains the poor standards found on sites run by smaller companies where the even most basic welfare facilities can still found to be absent.

“I have a warning and a challenge to the industry. There is a lot of occupational health going on, particularly on the wellbeing side. But we must not lose sight of traditional health problems in the industry.

I think that in the last two years the industry has taken its eye off the ball in this area while it looks at these broader areas. My priorities for 2012 are challenging contractors on a senior level on what they are doing on health issues.”

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