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OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH PROVISION ON LONDON 2012 PROJECT

Research highlights the benefits from effective project health management

A report has been published by HSE on the results of a research project which examined the performance of the occupational health (OH) provision on the Olympic Park and Athletes’ Village.

The OH service was established as part of a commitment to protecting the health and safety of workers on the Olympic build. It offered support to managers from a team of occupational hygienists and OH professionals working in an integrated way to prevent and treat occupational ill-health and promote healthy behaviours.

The service was guided by a strategy and targeted vibration, noise, respiratory, hazardous substances and manual handling.

Senior management commitment essential for long term impact

The OH team developed an approach called ‘health like safety’ which integrated good OH management practice into day-to-day working by using existing safety management tools such as near-miss reporting and maturity matrices as the basis for tools to target health risks.

This researchers identified four conclusions:

  • Exemplar project – there is agreement that the OH service was one of the “best that has been implemented on any major construction project in the UK to date”. It was well thought of by workers and managers on the site and received widespread recognition within the construction industry and beyond;
  • Good business sense: cost benefit analysis suggests that the benefits of the programme of clinical treatments and health surveillance pay for the entire service. Contractors also identified a range of financial and other benefits from taking a more active approach to OH management. These could not be quantified;
  • Impact on behaviour – where contractors engaged with the OH team there was evidence that both worker and manager attitudes and behaviours had been affected. The more engaged a contractor was the greater the observed changes; and
  • Long term effects – there was evidence that managers and workers intended to carry forward learning from their time on the Park and Village. Managers learned a lot from working with occupational hygienists, and from the ‘health like safety’ approach. Where there was senior management commitment to the principles of good OH management, learning from the Olympic Park was more likely to have been embedded in company policies.

 

KEY MESSAGES

The key messages and learning points established from this research are presented below.

  1. Occupational health (OH) provision on the Olympic Park and Athletes’ Village has been recognised by the construction industry and beyond as an example of good practice, and one of the best implemented on any major construction project in the UK.
  2. inclusion of occupational hygienists in an integrated team with clinical staff enabled a co-ordinated approach across the preventative and clinical aspects of the service.
  3. OH team adopted a ‘health like safety’ approach, encouraging contractors to see health risk management as part of their day-to-day activities, and something that was simple to integrate with existing safety management.
  4. intervention had clear impacts on the attitudes and behaviours of workers and managers on site
  5. the team took part in senior management meetings and encouraged contractors to share their experiences with one another as a way to maximise learning and promote good practice.
  6. in engaging with workers on well-being initiatives, the OH team sought wherever possible to use it as a ‘way in’ to engage on wider OH and safety concerns.
  7. the team proactively engaged with managers and workers initially offering simple solutions to contractors’ problems as well as innovative approaches to workers (e.g. health-based competitions) that took OH messages to them on site.
  8. Earlier engagement with design teams and further training on OH awareness for designers, architects and CDM co-ordinators are necessary if health risks are to be more effectively designed out before they reach work sites.
  9. Senior level commitment and leadership on the part of clients and contractors are vital if standards of OH are to be improved in the construction industry
  10. cost benefit analysis of the OH provision indicated that the provision of treatment services and health surveillance on site can have substantial economic benefits, such that the costs of offering other services can be offset.
  11. there are elements that could be transferred across the industry, and/or appropriately scaled for more modest budgets.

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