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Construction Site Safety

London’s 2012 Olympics will be remembered for many great things, but one of the more underrated aspects of its legacy, is the impact that the global spectacle has had on the UK’s construction industry.

When construction work started on the Olympic Village, accident statistics at the time suggested there would be three fatalities and more than 500 serious accidents involving workers building the Stratford Stadium and its surroundings.

More than 12,000 workers were involved in the project and when work completed, after an estimated 62 million hours, London 2012 became the first Olympics to not suffer a single fatality during its construction programme. In fact, the construction team working on the London Olympics enjoyed such a superb safety record that the risk of an accident was roughly the same as in an average office!

This success has helped to reinforce the benchmark for all other large-scale construction projects as well as demonstrating just how far the construction industry has progressed in terms of its safety record.

However, by its nature, construction will always be a high-risk industry. Figures from the HSE reveal there were 42 fatalities on construction sites in 2013/14 which made up almost a third of all UK workplace deaths. In addition, the industry lost 2.3 million days to illness and injury during this period so there is still lots of room for improvement, especially on many smaller sites and refurbishment projects.

According to the HSE, spot checks on these types of projects regularly uncover risks relating to working at height, temporary work, general housekeeping, failure to control exposure to harmful dusts including silica and asbestos, noise and vibration, as well as inadequate welfare.

Recently introduced changes to The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, which came into force during April 2015, should help to improve this to a certain extent. The new legislation means construction firms face increased liability for poor health and safety standards and places greater responsibility on them for the conduct and decisions of the people they employ to oversee health and safety. It also tightens up all duties and obligations relating to health and safety and means workers must be consulted on certain issues.

Estimates now suggest that more than 200,000 new recruits are required over the next five years, to meet projected demand, as the construction industry recovers from recession. Many of these will be recruited from abroad and might not have English as their first language so ensuring this new workforce receives thorough training, as well as proper safety equipment, will be vital to ensure the construction industry continues building on the success of London 2012.

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