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Good health is good business

The Health and Safety Executive welcomes any industry initiative to improve health and safety in the construction industry.

So following today’s launch of Berkeley Group’s £2m innovation fund, I look forward to seeing how this imaginative approach will stimulate industry, particularly for a healthier workforce.

The industry has made much progress in reducing the number of people killed and injured in its activities, but for every fatal accident, approximately 100 construction workers die from a work-related cancer.

“Over 50 per cent of new cancer registrations are for male construction workers”

A construction worker is at least 100 times more likely to die from disease caused or made worse by their work as they are from a fatal accident.

That is the stark reality about working on a construction site today.

Over 50 per cent of new cancer registrations are for male construction workers. 

These cancers are caused by exposure to things like asbestos or silica in the past; however, workers today are still being exposed. 

What about things that do not kill you?  

Common ailments

Manual handling injuries are the most commonly reported over-10-day injury in the construction industry.  

Skilled construction worker and building tradesman have one the highest estimated rates of back and upper limb disorders.

Personal injury claims for noise induced hearing lost or hand arm vibration have also risen.

The construction industry is, however, making significant improvements in improving workplace control and so helping prevent the risk of occupational diseases.

For example the Construction Dust Partnership group has championed a reduction in exposure to harmful dusts by promoting the use of water suppression and on tool extraction. 

Water suppression is now widely used when cutting kerbs and slabs. 

“Fresh ideas are still needed to change the way people think and work in construction”

The use of on-tool extraction is increasing too with manufacturers designing tools to incorporate effective dust capture systems.

The widespread use of mechanical handling aids for kerbs and paving is another example where industry set the standards they expect to be used.

New thinking

Berkeley Group managing director Rob Perrins says fresh ideas are still needed to change the way people think and work in construction. 

This is particularly appropriate if we are to further reduce the incidence of occupational diseases in the industry. 

HSE looks forward to seeing the results from investment into the Berkeley’s fund, and in particular in helping lower the risks of construction workers suffering from occupational disease.

Encouraging more to ‘think health’ will as we all acknowledge mean good health is good business’.

Philip White is chief inspector of construction at the Health and Safety Executive

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