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HSE launches occupational health guidance

The Health and Safety Executive has launched its first comprehensive guide to occupational health risk and management.

The Construction Occupational Health Management Essentials web-based tool was launched on Monday to provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all the industry needs to know on occupational health.

The website is aimed at clients, designers, principal contractors and contractors outlining how to manage health risks including asbestos, dermatitis, hand-arm vibration, musculoskeletal disorders, noise, respiratory disease and stress.

Chief inspector of construction Stephen Williams said: “We see it as very important to help the industry manage occupational health. This tool is a simple gateway into the key areas – most of the material exists in other places but this toll brings it all together.”

HSE data shows that last year the construction industry lost 1.8 million days a year due to ill-health which is twice as much as the number lost through accidents. The regulator says that 4.5 per cent of industry’s workforce is affected by illness which counts for 90,000 in the construction and building trade.

HSE inspector Stephen Hartley said: “It’s the first time HSE and the industry has been in a position to offer a joined-up package of information. It cuts across the different areas in one place.”

The COHME model follows a three-year consultation period across HSE and with industry stakeholders. It offers a breadth of information and links to various occupational health providers including links to Constructing Better Health which was rolled-out nationally last August.

As framework for managing the risks of occupational health the regulator insists that it not finished and will be updated. It is encouraging contractors to share best practice by contributing case studies.

Mr Williams said: “It is easier to see the safety issues as they are in front of you. But occupational health is a much more difficult issue and has to be concentrated on to manage it. We need to manage the risks not just the effects. Everyone in the industry has a part to play.”

Mr Williams stressed the responsibilities of CDM duty holders which range from clients through the supply chain to sub contractors.

Despite the large number of days lost in the industry the HSE is confident that things are improving. Mr Williams said: “There are signs that it is starting to get better but it is hard to fully quantify. Ill health often gets misdiagnosed, goes unrecognised - but the figure is a very big one and there is work to be done.”

Visit: www.hse.gov.uk/construction/healthrisks