New guidance on occupational health follows HSE enforcement drive

24 November 2015

A new 20-page guide to improving construction workers’ health and managing risks has been published by HSE advisory body CONIAC, the Construction Industry Advisory Committee, and the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).

Occupational health risk management in construction is also being promoted by the HSE, which is urging the industry to put an end to the death toll of occupational diseases in the sector. every month.

The new guide gives practical advice on what “health risk” means for the construction industry, and the role of an occupational health service provider in preventing or controlling risks.

Its publication follows the news earlier this month that HSE inspectors issued more than 200 health-related enforcement notices during their most recent construction inspection initiative.

The HSE says that this level of interventions flagged up a “widespread misunderstanding of what ‘occupational health’ means in the construction sector and the employers’ misguided perception that health is more difficult to manage than safety”.

According to Shelley Frost, executive director of policy at IOSH, 100 people die every week from construction-related ill health in the UK, and less than half of construction workers also stay employed in the industry until they are 60.

Frost said: “There have been huge advances in improving safety in the construction sector over the last 15 years, but the industry has yet to generate such advances in improving the picture in occupational health.

“This new guide raises awareness of the occupational health issues in construction, demystifies how to best manage them and provides information as to where firms can get help and assistance.

“Ultimately, if the advice is followed, it could help to lower incidence rates of occupational ill-health and transform the perception of working in construction to that of an attractive and respectful industry with great career choices.”

The HSE issued more than 200 health-related enforcement notices in a recent inspection drive

CONIAC was set up to advise the HSE on the protection of people at work in the building, civil engineering and engineering construction industries. Its members are drawn from the HSE, employers and employees.

The document was written by CONIAC’s Health Risks Working Group, chaired by Ian Strudley, a principal specialist inspector at the HSE. He said: “The misunderstanding of occupational health within the construction sector means that whilst the industry focuses on managing the more familiar safety issues, serious health risks get ignored. We cannot let this continue.

“When figures show that construction workers are at least 100 times more likely to die from a disease caused or made worse by their work as they are from a fatal accident, the industry must take action.” 

Other members of the CONIAC working group include Michelle Aldous of Constructing Better Health; Paul Bussey from RIBA; Denis Doody of UCATT; Kevin Fear of CITB; Caroline Haslam of the Home Builders Federation; Gren Tipper of the  Construction Clients Group; and Andy Turrell of the UK Contractors Group.

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