September 22nd, 2014 | Author: CCG
Why should clients take an interest in workers health within the construction industry and what can they do to support a sustainable outcome?
Firstly, let us look at some startling facts:
- - The construction industry accounts for less than 10% of the UKs working population, but 56% of all male occupational cancer registrations are construction related
- - 98% of work related deaths in 2011/12 were caused by ill health contracted whilst working in the construction sector, approximately 100 times more than get killed through accidents
- - Only 46% of men working in the construction sector are still able to do the job at the age of 60
Although the industry and many of the supporting bodies couple health and safety together to manage and control both, health has traditionally taken the back seat due the cause and effect in many cases taking decades to present symptoms and unlike safety, the burden of managing health falls predominantly to the employer.
Health is the most challenging topic and where most confusion reigns. Many engaged within the industry do not understand what is required of them as an employer and couple this with insufficient occupational health resource that is familiar with construction; it is then easy to see why we struggle with a workforce that is transient in the extreme.
There is also confusion within the industry between occupational health management, occupational hygiene and well-being. All have a role to play and they are all complimentary in engaging employers, employees and the population at large. Each can be summarised as follows:
Occupational Health Management
Occupational health deals with work related health issues; assessing and advising on the effect work could have on an employees health, and what effect an employees health may have on work. It is a two way process. The HSE states that good occupational health services are central to the effective management of workplace health.
Importantly it fulfils the statutory requirements under current health and safety legislation. Encouraging and supporting all employees to look after and manage their own health in support of their employer and particularly outside of work the wider Well-being agenda.
Eliminating or managing all processes and materials/substances harmful to health by adopting a risk based approach. Providing management, supervisors and workers with the requisite skills, tools and procedures to manage the health risks identified.
Ensuring the right health assessments are carried out at the right intervals and any recommendations are acted upon. Employing professional OH expertise with the right qualifications, skills and construction experience to work with employers to safeguard the health of employees. Maintaining appropriate health records for all employees and equipping them to have informed conversations with future employers about safeguarding their health.
Occupational hygienists get involved at the interface of people and their workplaces. They use science and engineering to prevent ill health caused by the work environment - specialising in the assessment and control of risks to health from workplace exposure to hazards.
Hygienists help employers and employees to understand these risks and to minimize or eliminate them. Occupational hygienists can come from many backgrounds - chemists, engineers, biologists, physicists, doctors, nurses and others who have chosen to apply their skills to improving working practices and conditions. At their core is occupational hygiene - where science and engineering meet the human element of work.
Occupational hygienists work across all sectors, in a variety of roles as regulators, researchers, educators, managers and practitioners working within both public and private sectors, for consultants or as direct employees in all industries.
Public Health Responsibility Deal aims to work with industry to improve the nation’s health. There are five strands: food, alcohol, behavioural change, physical activity and health at work. There are a series of Pledges which employers are encouraged to select that best fit their business and are then required to record progress against.
Responsibility Deal H10
is construction specific: As organisations working in the construction/civil engineering industries, we pledge to manage the causes of occupational disease and take action to improve the health and well-being of people working across offices and sites large and small. We recognise that prevention and early intervention is the key to success and will take on-going action on at least one of the following:
- - Annual reporting of the health and well-being of employees
- - The provision of clinical occupational health services (OHS) that work in accordance with the relevant standards e.g. SEQOHS
- - Arrangements to develop a programme to actively promote health and well-being and the effective management of health.
Where relevant, we also pledge to encourage our subcontractors and supply chains to endorse at least one of the actions above to implement good health and well-being activities.
There have been a number of really successful major projects where clients have taken a lead in bringing a sharper focus to health; Heathrow Terminal 5, the Olympic Park and more recently Crossrail being good examples. Through these major undertakings clients have shown determined leadership to make a real difference to the awareness and management of occupational health risks. Crossrail was the first to realise that simply continuing to provide facilities on site, although greatly appreciated by the workforce, did not lead to a sustainable outcome. They thoroughly analysed what went before and came to the conclusion that real change would only come about if all employers within the industry took direct control of the provision for their employees and this is where they have focussed their effort. They mandated all contractors throughout their supply chains to register with Constructing Better Health (CBH) and then report on key performance indicators to demonstrate all employees are being properly assessed and supported.
The CCG do not mandate membership of CBH to members, but we do cite registration of clients supply chain to CBH as best practice within the Client Commitments. Client should be able to take for granted that all employers will look after the health of their workers. In reality this is not the case. The supply chains within UK construction are both deep and wide and the further you get from the principal suppliers, the more we see the treatment of occupational health falling away. It is very much down to the onus being on the employer to take responsibility unlike safety where there is a real incentive for the principal contractor to ensure they keep the right side of the law. The CBH model is proportional in that every employer takes responsibility for their own people and reports upwards. CBH acknowledges that it is not for the principal contractor or the client to manage the health of others employees but they can both do a great deal to demonstrate commitment and leadership to improve the situation.
Leading us back to the question; why should clients take an interest in workers health within the construction industry and what can they do to support a sustainable outcome?
Not with-standing the moral and corporate social responsibilities clearly evident, there is a substantial cost to ill health and industry costs ultimately get paid by clients. We are the one party during procurement and then into construction that can make demands on the whole supply chain to take appropriate action. Strong determined clients demonstrating sound leadership to improve the efficiency of the industry are respected.
What you do is simple; show you are interested in and will support the health agenda, specify what you want to see and insist the whole supply chain manages themselves and reports upwards to demonstrate it is being done. CBH have the tools and support services available and that is why it is cited as best practice and why we participate on the board of CBH.
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