Time to tackle construction’s pollution

6 April 2018

A new campaign by the Considerate Constructors Scheme aims to address the pollution problem caused by construction activity – after an industry survey found that nearly two-thirds of workers thought there was not enough being done to tackle the issue.

Some 40,000 deaths a year are linked to air pollution in the UK, with more than £20bn lost to the economy due to related health problems. Construction, with its heavy reliance on road transport, not to mention site machinery, is a significant contributor.

This pollution has grave implications – not only for the wider public, but also for construction workers who, through their outdoor work, are exposed to this poor quality air daily.

Now, a campaign by the Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS) is attempting to tackle the problem. It follows a survey of 600 UK and Ireland construction workers at the end of 2017, in which 84% of respondents expressed concern about air pollution in the industry, and nearly two-thirds (64%) said the industry is not doing enough to tackle this issue.

On a more positive note, 88% said the importance of minimising air pollution is being communicated to the workforce on their site, while 62% said their site has appropriate measures in place to address air pollution. Against that, 44% do not have a good or detailed understanding of air pollution.

Raising industry awareness

“Construction activity is a significant contributor to air pollution and it is therefore essential for the industry to work together to implement clean air measures to collectively reduce our impact on air quality,” says Edward Hardy, chief executive of the CCS.

“The important consideration is whether the industry is truly aware of the impact it is having, and what measures constructors can put in place to minimise pollutants produced through construction activity. Our survey showed that current awareness and understanding across the construction industry urgently needs addressing.”

CCS’s national campaign “Spotlight on…air pollution” wants to highlight how the industry can reduce air pollution through activities in and around construction sites. The organisation makes 18,000 monitoring visits to sites, companies and suppliers every year.

Practical resources hub

The initiative offers a hub of practical resources on the CCS website, with guidance from organisations such as the Institute of Air Quality Management, Healthy Air Campaign and the Greater London Authority.

Case studies from CCS-registered sites – including those operated by Canary Wharf Contractors, Mace, Morgan Sindall and Sir Robert McAlpine – show how contractors are addressing the problem.

For instance, Morgan Sindall runs a training module on efficient driving techniques, top tips for fuel efficiency and information on journey planning. Fleet driver performance is managed through a tracker system and each quarter the best are rewarded with a cash prize.

Canary Wharf Contractors is also encouraging “greener” driver behaviour, in particular targeting engine idling in areas near schools. It is using hybrid engine technology for concrete deliveries on the Newfoundland residential project on the Isle of Dogs, working with its suppliers Laing O’Rourke and Hanson.

The CCS has partnered with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) to produce posters which flag up the issue.

Professor Peter Hansford, chair of the ICE’s air quality task force, says: “This is a golden opportunity for the industry to up its game in relation to air quality around our construction sites and is a key driving force in helping to address this issue across the industry.”

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