Olympics ‘health like safety’ approach yields substantial savings
New research on the Olympics construction project has estimated the scale of savings related to the deployment of a team of occupational hygienists to manage workers’ health is likely to have run into millions of pounds.
Commissioned by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and undertaken by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), the study, Occupational Hygiene on the Olympic Park and Athletes’ Village, aimed to identify the potential economic benefits of preventing ill health among the 46-000-strong Olympic workforce. The researchers conclude that the occupational-hygiene team saved contractors, employers, the Government and individuals money by:
- reducing the downtime involved in dealing with health risks; ·
- minimising exposure to health risks, and thereby saving the project up to £7m over three years.
Working with the leadership team and each project, the hygienists adopted a range of strategies to prevent work-related ill health. They provided support on site so that design, method statements and risk assessments were created with a focus on eliminating and reducing exposure to health risks in the workplace. The service was free to all contractors and workers involved.
Based on an annual investment of £350,000, the service needed only to reduce absence rates among the workforce by an average of 30 minutes for each worker to pay for itself. In fact, the benefits of using the hygienists outweighed the costs involved.
According to the researchers, if work-related sickness absence and exposure rates were reduced by two-thirds compared to industry averages, the return on investment could have been as much as £7 for every £1 spent in reducing sickness-absence costs. If programmes such as this could eliminate work-related ill health, then the savings could be as great as £74 for every £1 spent on occupational hygiene.
Claire Tyers, principal associate at the IES and the research report’s main author, said: “The evidence is clear on this, and construction projects of any size could adopt similar approaches, suitable to their size, and see the benefits for themselves.
“The ‘health like safety’ approach adopted by the Olympic Park and the Village meant that managers, supervisors and workers could transfer their existing safety management skills to health. By adopting familiar mechanisms, such as risk assessments, daily activity briefings and near-miss reporting, to focus on health issues, the site was able to firmly place workplace health on the agendas of the contractors and workers involved, with excellent results.”
Lawrence Waterman, head of health and safety for the ODA, said: “The London 2012 Games will open against the stunning backdrop of the Olympic Park and Olympic Village, and we know that with the help of the hygienists the health of workers who have created this setting has been enhanced by their work experience rather than harmed. The IES report proves that this wasn’t just the right thing to do, but it has also saved an enormous amount of money. Good occupational health is obviously a good investment.”
Added IOSH chief executive Rob Strange: “This research proves that the business benefits of investing in pragmatic health and safety far outweigh the alternative – skimping on vital worker protection. IOSH is working hard to show businesses that investing in good health and safety not only saves lives, but serious cash, too – this research proves this point exactly.”
A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the IES website at: http://www.employment-studies.co.uk/pubs/report.php?id=497
Join SHP Online
- ✔ Download free reports and research
- ✔ Access free Digital magazine
- ✔ Email newsletter briefings