24 Feb Your workers’ health: The key to productivity?
Occupational health continues to climb up the industry’s agenda. A panel of health, safety and environment experts came together to define the problem, the barriers to progress and how it could address other key issues such as productivity.
Between health and safety, it has historically been the latter on which the industry has focused. Lately, however, this has begun to change.
With safety standards having shot up in recent decades, industry leaders are now waking up to the fact that occupational health is an area desperately in need of similar improvement. Last month, an expert panel gathered in a Soho hotel for a discussion entitled Occupational health in 2025: improving compliance and co-ordinated approaches in construction.
Kicking off the debate – hosted by Construction News in association with not-for-profit financial services company B&CE – former politician and B&CE director Gregg McClymont set out the situation: “It is clear that there is a challenge in construction around occupational health,” he said.
“There is a challenge around enabling employers to comply with the current regulations. It’s clear coming in from the outside that employers want to comply, but the question is how one complies when there might not be the skills or the resources.”
Mr McClymont added that the broader issue around both health and safety and occupational health had been made clear to him as he was preparing for the debate: “I was working from home and the lady who cleans our flat was half hanging off our balcony 40 ft above the ground cleaning the window.
“In that moment, the importance of getting this right was brought home to me. It’s the right thing to do, but it also brings efficiencies.”
Where to start? With the employer
Lawrence Waterman, managing partner at consultancy Park Health and Safety Partnership, suggested that driving improvements in occupational health started at the top.
“First, there is the responsibility of the employer to manage work in a way that reduces exposure to health risks and, where they do arise, to mitigate the potential effects and monitor [how well measures to mitigate are working],” he said. “That’s where I start: with an employer.”
The point, Mr Waterman explained, was employers had to face up to their responsibilities for their employees’ wellbeing.