Sector - Health

Construction industry to tackle occupational health

171 business leaders in the construction industry have pledged to improve occupational health at the Committing Construction to a Healthier Future summit in London yesterday.

The summit saw industry leaders come together in an effort to eradicate preventable ill health and disease in the construction industry.

The Construction Health Summit was organised by the Health in Construction Leadership Group, a recently established collaborative group comprising contractors, clients, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), professional bodies, trade associations and trade unions.

The gathering of key industry leaders, which included Crossrail, Thames Tideway Tunnel, Balfour Beatty, Skanska and Mace, signed a pledge to eliminate occupational ill health and disease from the construction industry.

The statistic that deaths as a result of occupational disease are 100 times more likely than deaths caused by accidents.

Currently, occupational cancer accounts for over 40% of cancer deaths and registrations in the workplace. The most common cause of these cancers is exposure to asbestos (70%) and silica (17%).

There are also a high number of people who suffer from hearing loss due to excessive noise levels, hand arm vibration syndrome or musculoskeletal disorders from physical activity.

Speakers at the summit included Judith Hackitt CBE, Chair of HSE; Justin Tomlinson MP, the Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Disabled People with responsibility for Health and Safety; Andy Mitchell, CEO of Thames Tideway; Andrew Wolstenholme, CEO of Crossrail and Co-Chair of the Construction Leadership Council; and Sir Malcolm Grant, Chairman of NHS England.

Leo Quinn, Chief Executive of Balfour Beatty, said: “When 100 times more UK construction workers die from occupational disease than from accidents, it’s vital that the industry looks at what more can be done in order to improve health as well as safety.”

It is hoped that by signing the pledge, the construction industry will be able to see the same cultural shift that led to dramatic reductions in on-site injuries and fatalities, to treat health like safety.

Chair of the HSE, Judith Hackitt CBE, said: “The number of on-site related fatalities has fallen by two-thirds in the past ten years due to a concerted and joined up effort by the construction industry. We can have a similar impact on the health of the workforce with an equally determined effort by the industry and its supporting organisations.”