Occupational health in construction debated at IOSH roundtable event

28 October 2016

How good practice around occupational health can be better shared throughout all levels of the construction industry was debated during an IOSH roundtable event.

Ian Strudley, Principal Inspector at the HSE

Education, greater collaboration and tackling behavioural psychology were just some of the themes discussed by a cross-section of industry representatives at a meeting facilitated by the IOSH Construction Group.

Members of the National Federation of Builders, Hire Association Europe and the Federation of Master Builders joined professionals who work for large construction companies, and with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to explore the issue.

The discussion heard that for every worker killed on a UK construction site there are another 100 workers who die as a result of occupational diseases that can be attributed to working in construction.

To try and tackle this, the representatives agreed that more needed to be done to ensure that successful occupational health initiative implemented by larger construction companies are universally accessible to SMEs.

Ian Strudley, Principal Inspector at the UK’s Health and Safety Executive, said: “We have seen massive improvements in how safety is managed on the construction site in the past 15 to 20 years.

“We need to do more to get people to challenge managing health risks in the workplace. It’s about how we raise awareness and the methods that we use to do so.

“I would like to see the industry tackling the issues face-on to make sure that the construction workers working today, and for the rest of their careers, go home safely and healthily.”

Tony Henocq, national health and safety manager at Kier Construction, felt training and upskilling the supply chain is an effective way of promoting occupational health throughout the industry.

Mark Rimmer, operations manager at Dartmouth Builders, said catering for the health of the next generation of construction workers was an integral consideration for any occupational health initiative.

He said: “If we do not get it right now, we are going to be having this same discussion in 25 years’ time.

“I believe there are some quick and easy things you can do on site, such as putting up hydration posters in the toilets. It’s about tailoring the occupational health to suit the site, the job and the workforce.”

Having delivered occupational health toolbox talks and training for the past decade, Dave Arscott, national technical manager at Brandon Hire, said education is key.

He added: “The information has got to be simple. It’s about changing the ‘got to get the job done’ attitude.”

The roundtable event took place at the Aztec Hotel & Spa, in Bristol, on 19 October.

Paul Haxell, Chair of the IOSH Construction Group, said the information gathered at the session will be reviewed so the next steps can be developed.

He said: “We have gained a lot of insight and our aim now is to pull out one or two meaningful areas that we can look to address.”

Visit www.iosh.co.uk/constructiongroup for more details about the group’s activities.

Picture: Ian Strudley, Principal Inspector at the HSE, speaking at the roundtable event