Olympic park project saves money through occupational health

Investment in proper and effective occupational health measures could save employers thousands of pounds every year, an analysis of the lessons learned from the construction of the Olympic Park and Athletes’ Village has argued.

A study by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) into the ill-health prevention programme put in place during the construction of the two sites claims that even a relatively small investment in occupational hygiene can potentially lead to significant economic benefits.

For an annual investment of £350,000, the service needed only to reduce absence rates among its workforce by an average of 30 minutes per worker to pay for itself.

The occupational hygiene team put in place on the site saved contractors, employers, the Government and individuals money by:

  • reducing the downtime involved in dealing with health risks; and

  • minimising exposure to health risks, and thereby reducing the cost of sickness absence (in the process saving the project up to £7 million over three years) and reducing the future costs of work-related ill health (potentially as much as £81 million for a workforce of this size).

The research, “Occupational hygiene on the Olympic Park and Athletes’ Village”, was commissioned by the Olympic Delivery Authority to identify the potential economic benefits of preventing ill health among the Olympic workforce through having a “health-like safety” approach on site.

This ensured workplace health management was prioritised in the same way as safety, supported by the occupational hygiene team. The hygienists provided support on site so that design, method statements and risk assessments were created with a focus on eliminating and reducing exposure to health risks in the workplace. The service was free to all contractors and workers involved.

Claire Tyers, principal author of the research and principal associate at IES, said: “Preventative workplace health management has the potential to deliver real economic returns, as well as keeping workers well and able to work at their full capacity.”

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