How do major construction projects manage workers’ health effectively?

Work related ill-health in the construction sector is a major concern worldwide. In the UK, around 80,000 people are harmed each year and there are approximately 4,000 worker deaths compared to 39 who die as a result of accidents.

Insights into how the health of workers is managed on large construction projects will be revealed during a panel discussion on Tuesday 17 September at IOSH 2019, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s annual conference.

The Thames Tideway Tunnel is a vast project being undertaken in London to build an urgently-needed new sewer by 2023. Its aim is to protect the tidal River Thames from sewage pollution. The tunnel will be 7.2m in diameter, 25km long and run up to 65m below the river.

IOSH has funded a three-year research project to monitor key health and safety processes, personnel, documents, events and activities on the Tideway megaproject. Research findings have been promoted by IOSH and are available here

During the panel discussion, Professor Alistair Gibb, the Principal Investigator on the research from Loughborough University, will be highlighting some of the findings from the research alongside a panel of experts from across industry, including Margaret Grahamslaw, Head of Occupational Health and Wellbeing at B and CE, Jennie Armstrong, Head of Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing at Tideway and Malcolm Shiels, Chair of IOSH’s Construction Group. The session will be chaired by Mary Ogungbeje, OSH Research Manager at IOSH.

One area that the research explored was how health was managed on the Tideway construction project. The research used interviews and meeting observations to examine why the industry has struggled to manage health effectively. 

“A key issue identified related to the term ‘health’ and how it is conceptualised,” says Professor Alistair Gibb from Loughborough University. “Activities which focus on the general health and wellbeing of the workforce can distract from the reduction at source of work-related hazards.

“The shape of the construction industry, with high levels of self-employment and worker turnover contributed to practical challenges of cost and access to health services and an incomplete picture of the health of the construction workforce. Health risks are challenging to manage because health is not like safety; in terms of the hazards themselves but also in terms of the way the construction sector understands and manages risk. This is what needs to be addressed to achieve real, lasting change.”

The session, titled ‘Managing health like safety - lessons from Tideway’, takes place on Tuesday 17 September, between 3.45pm-4.30pm, at the ICC Birmingham, Broad Street, Birmingham, B1 2EA.

To book your place at IOSH 2019, visit the website: https://www.eventbooking.uk.com/iosh/


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