OH still has too low a profile in construction industry

Occupational health still has too low a profile within the construction industry, despite the dangers to workers’ health being well-known, a government report has said.

The One Death Too Many report into fatal injuries in the construction industry, commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions, concluded that occupational health remained “a serious problem” within the industry.

It called for more efforts to be made to tackle the problems of ill-health and deaths within the sector, still among the most dangerous in the country.

The report, by Rita Donaghy, former chair of conciliation service Acas, also highlighted a lack of resources within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), arguing that in London at least it was over-stretched and unable to cope with its workload. The low level of reporting of serious accidents, let alone near misses, was “a disgrace”, added Donaghy.

“If we had a higher proportion of reporting serious accidents, it might help us to achieve a more accurate picture about fatalities. I recommend an awareness raising campaign so that individual workers and companies take the issue of reporting accidents more seriously,” she said.

She called for a pilot study to be carried out by the HSE to determine the impact of more non-accident prosecutions.

And Donaghy recommended the use of targeted safety campaigns at specific vulnerable groups, such as workers aged over 55, young people and migrants as well as the introduction of “positive duties” – in effect a new legal duty – on directors to ensure good health and safety management.

The report has been welcomed by trade unions, with construction union Ucatt pointing out that a lack of resources at the HSE had long hindered moves aimed at preventing workplace injuries and fatalities.

The DWP is expected to respond to the findings later in the year.

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