Constructing Better Health builds case for OH service

Occupational health standards have been published for the construction industry, giving employers benchmarks against which to measure their activities for the first time.

The standards have been developed by Constructing Better Health (CBH) to bring together the lessons learned from its two-year long pilot that finished in the summer.

CBH was launched with government, industry and union backing in 2004, with the aim of exploring the work-related health needs of the industry and looking at the case for a national OH service for the sector.

The Leicestershire pilot worked with more than 360 construction employers, delivering more than 1,700 free and confidential health checks, with some 2,800 workers attending awareness raising ‘toolbox talks’ on work health topics.

A third were referred for further advice, particularly on issues such as raised blood pressure, undiagnosed diabetes or hand-arm vibration syndrome and hearing loss.

A key finding from the pilot was that construction industry employers were often uncertain as to exactly who should provide OH advice or how it should be provided.

This difficulty was compounded by the complexity of the supply chain, the transience and mobility of the workforce, and the fact that approximately half of the employees worked in companies employing less than six people.

There was also inconsistency in the way data was recorded and a lack of co-ordination in the approach to the management of occupational health within the industry, with few employers having robust occupational health policies and procedures in place.

It is these issues that the standards are addressing, in particular helping employers to understand their legislative and non-legislative responsibilities and providing a point of reference for fitness for work standards, said CBH.

The standards outline to employers what OH is and what it can do, the legal requirements for health surveillance, the keeping of health records and recording and reporting injuries, diseases and accidents.

They also look at some of the key work-related health risks faced by the industry, including hand-arm vibration syndrome, noise-induced hearing loss, skin disorders, respiratory disease, musculoskeletal disorders and work-related stress.

There are sections on safety critical and non-safety critical workers, plus guidance on how to develop fitness for work standards, and how to ensure OH teams have flexibility in how they arrive at decisions.

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