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Olympic safety success down to 'relationships', claims HSE

The Health and Safety Executive has identified 13 characteristics in relationships that created “pre-conditions” for the 2012 Olympic projects’ exemplary safety record, in a new study into the “secret factors behind the safety successes” of the London 2012 build.

The report is published at the same time Construction News can reveal that Galliford Try Construction has filed an £8m counterclaim against J Reddington, accusing the sub-contractor of multiple health and safety failings on the Athletes’ Village project.

The counterclaim and defence was in response to a claim by Reddington for almost £7m, which alleged that GTC had caused delays in the project.

Lead researcher Dr Helen Bolt told CN the Olympic report was about “recognising how important the relationship is” and “paying attention to the relationships and the openness of the relationships”.

She added: “The way people interact, the way the organisations interact can really make or break the project.”

Collaboration, communication, trust and clarity were among the characteristics singled out in the research.

The London 2012 Olympic Park project was one of the largest in Europe, but was completed on time and with an accident frequency rate of just 0.16 per 100,000 hours worked.

The industry average is 0.55, with the national average at 0.21.

There were also no work-related fatalities on the London 2012 construction programme.

The research, funded by the HSE and carried out by a team from Loughborough University, was aimed at making recommendations to help others replicate the success of London 2012.

Loughborough University Royal Academy of Engineering professor Alistair Gibb said: “Successful safety management relies on systems and people working together in tandem – neither is sufficient on its own and they rely on each other to achieve the best outcomes.”

Dr Bolt added that “respect and clarity” was the most critical characteristic, and that “the value of relationships between individuals and organisations” was the key finding of the research.

HSE board member and executive director for Laing O’Rourke Howard Shiplee was the director of construction for the Olympic Delivery Authority.

He said: “Though London 2012 was a unique experience for everyone involved, fundamentally it was no different from other construction projects and there is no reason that what worked during the Olympic Park build cannot work elsewhere.

“Getting the right culture and relationships in place early pays dividends not just for health and safety but for so many of the benchmarks for success, such as delivering the project on time and within budget with high productivity and sustainability.

“This doesn’t occur accidentally: providing clarity from the outset is essential and measures need to continue through all phases, not just construction but into fit-out.

“As we have all seen, though, the results can be inspirational – a beacon to the rest of the world.”

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