Health & Safety
The Vision and Strategy for Health in the Construction Industry
The Construction Health Leadership Group is the Strategic Forum for Construction’s collaborative working group for health in the construction industry. It supports the aims of Construction 2025 the industrial strategy for construction and the Construction Industry Advisory Council (CONIAC)
Construction is the leading industry for occupational health and disease prevention.
To unite the construction industry in eradicating ill health and disease caused by exposure to health hazards.
Value Added Benefits
Notwithstanding a moral obligation to protect the health of its workers, the industry finds itself in a position of rapid growth and with no real prospect of fully mobilising the right people with the right skills and experience to match demand: currently only 46% of construction workers remain in the industry until the age of 60, which compares unfavourably with other industries. Coupled with an ageing workforce across all UK sectors, this forewarns of a future crisis in construction if nothing changes. The construction process today still damages workers and their family life, yet most of this ill-health is preventable; a change now will lead to a far higher percentage of workers experiencing long and productive working lives over the next 20 years and beyond.
Financially, keeping construction workers fit to do their job through to retirement age would remove the need to recruit and train many thousand new entrants each year, resulting substantial cost savings, with the additional bonus of reducing the skills shortage and maintaining a stable and core level of experienced workers.
Organisations have a social responsibility which includes the duty to prevent people being harmed where they can. Those who behave ethically towards their workers and through their public interfaces essentially gain respect from the community in which they operate, building trust on all fronts.
Linked to social responsibility, the reputation of the industry would be enhanced, making it more appealing to enable it to compete better with other industries to attract young people and investment. A good reputation is built on reliability, trust, customer focus and leadership in all areas of business, and by extension cannot exclude ill-health prevention. On a smaller scale, the reputation of individual businesses engaged in construction would also benefit in these ways.
Less working time lost to ill-health, offers obvious cost benefits to the whole of “UK plc”, not just the construction industry – ill-health from current working conditions costs the UK over £8 billion and this excludes today’s costs of work-related cancers and lung disease caused by past workplace exposures. The cost benefits extend further down the scale to individual organisations, through shorter contract times, more efficient working processes and systems (itself leading to better practice and worker acceptance of exposure controls) and fewer administrative issues.
Associated with all of the above, the industry would be far more efficient and competitive, yielding more for less to the client base.
- To develop, and deliver an industry-wide buy-in, of a robust business case which promotes disease prevention as a key to improving efficiency of all engaged in the construction process.
- To deliver a ‘construction industry health summit’ in 2016 to share knowledge, challenges, solutions and best practice. The summit will gain industry commitment to develop individual and cooperative action plans to improve performance on eliminating and managing occupational disease and ill health in the construction industry.
- To engage with others industry-wide to communicate key disease prevention messages leading up to and following the 2016 summit, including via the Construction 2025 Summit in September 2015.
- To act as a co-ordinating and challenging group to lead the industry in ill-health and disease prevention and to enable support, development, promotion and sharing of best practice.
Critical Success Factors
The CHLG vision will be realised in 2025 when:
Health Culture and Awareness
1. All involved in the construction process – including product design and manufacturing sectors – are fully aware of their role in identifying and managing health risk exposure.
2. Employers engage and proactively support workers to ensure they have a good basic understanding of occupational disease and ill health, hazards and risks.
3. Construction industry leaders clearly understand the balance, that Robens envisaged in his 1972 report , between:
- ‘Prevention’ is the province of Occupational Hygiene. This uses science and engineering to reduce occupational ill-health and disease by accurately assessing and effectively controlling workplace health risks.
- ‘Cure’ is the province of Occupational Health. This considers the effects of work on an individual’s health and their health, ability and fitness to perform a particular job.
Health in Design
4. The Principal Designer will support the design community to design out avoidable health hazards and address the ongoing health and wellbeing of end users (premises occupiers).
5. All designers are evaluating health risks associated with construction activities and influence the client and those executing the work to avoid health risk exposure.
6. Hazardous exposures will be eliminated where practicable or minimized through pre-planned design and control on site.
Integrated approach to health
7. There is register of occupational health and hygiene service providers that are experienced in working within the construction sector and they are supported to develop services and expertise to meet the growing needs of our industry.
8. All workers in the construction industry will have their base line health assessed and be monitored throughout their working life to ensure any occupational disease found is not made worse.
9. The whole industry is working to national minimum standards for occupational health management and be working towards higher standards.
10. There is a maintained National Hub to share best practice in ill-health and disease prevention, allowing free access for all to find practical examples to be adopted by individuals and employers of any size or complexity.
11. Confidential health assessments records are held securely and accessible to those authorised to support the health management of workers given the transient nature of the workforce i.e. as secure as those records kept by the individual’s GP, but utilised proactively to protect workers’ from occupational disease and support long term employment.
12. Industry bodies engaged in the field of occupational health, occupational hygiene and wellbeing will be working together as one, supporting the industry in a holistic manner.
13. Health surveillance data is analysed to identify trends and instigate corrective action and education where appropriate.
14. The health burden on “UK plc” is understood and monitored for improvement and benchmarking against other industries.
15. Incidence rates of occupational disease and ill health are falling year on year.
16. The industry is a healthier and more attractive place to work.