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May 12, 2016

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Occupational health in construction – work in progress

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By ECA Director of Business Services, Paul Reeve CFIOSH

In recent years the construction industry – and notably electrical contracting – has made significant, and in some cases, remarkable, progress with on-site safety. While safety remains an operational priority, the occupational health of workers is not always managed as effectively.

Although there are legal requirements to manage occupational health, and a series of business-related benefits (such as productivity, staff retention and meeting tendering requirements) as a result, too many firms still regard occupational health as something that can wait until it becomes a ‘clear and present’ problem. By this time, the cost, both for workers and the company, can be huge.

It is worth pointing out that deaths from occupational disease in construction are 100 times more prevalent than death due to workplace injuries. While the biggest cause of cancer in the industry is exposure to asbestos (70%) and silica (17%), two airborne hazards of particular significance to building services contractors.

To find out more about the situation in our sector, the ECA, alongside the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and Constructing Better Health recently ran a major occupational health survey. The survey attracted strong support from the sector, and it highlights what we should be addressing next.

For instance, respondents, the majority of which were directors and managers within building services, highlighted a number of reported barriers to effective occupational health management. These included a perceived lack of management time, an apparent cost burden, and the delay between exposure and the apparent health effects.

Furthermore, while the survey identified respiratory hazards as being the biggest challenge, followed by musculoskeletal issues, many respondents told us they recognised the growing significance of mental health. The vast majority said they were up-to-speed generally with existing legislation which seeks to protect the health of workers on-site.

These are just some of the findings from the survey.

Meanwhile, steps are already being taken to increase awareness of occupational health in our sector. Many ECA members (through the joint employer/union body JIB) now have free access to Constructing Better Health’s ‘Construction Health Action Toolkit’, which is an interactive system for managing occupational health.

In addition, the ECA’s e-RAMS software, which is free to members, helps contractors to identify on-site health hazards, such as asbestos or manual handing, and then undertake a risk assessment to help manage occupational health issues in-site.

To find out more about the ECA’s occupational health survey, please visit www.eca.co.uk

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Occupational health in construction – work in progress – Medical Matterz
5 years ago

[…] SHPonline on Fri, 13 May 2016 01:25 GMT […]