Human characteristics such as respect, trust, clarity and collaboration were key to the London Olympics’ outstanding construction health & safety record, new research reveals.
The report, funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and carried out by researchers at Loughborough University, identified 13 distinct characteristics in relationships between clients, contractors, designers, workers and regulators that created the right ‘pre-conditions’ for the success of the project and ultimately the extremely low accident rates and zero fatalities seen during the Olympic Delivery Authority’s Big Build.
Focusing on the mechanisms that underpinned human and organisational interactions, rather than specific heath & safety systems and procedures, the qualitative survey found that characteristics including respect, trust, clarity, consistency, collaboration, motivation, empowerment, communication, openness and fairness had positively influenced performance on site and kept the accident frequency rate down to 0.16 per 100,000 hours worked, far lower than the industry average of 0.55.
It is hoped the approaches identified in the report can be implemented up-front to ‘pre-condition’ future projects for success, including those on smaller sites.
“If all sites do is run management systems, they lose the opportunity to add value and embed health & safety at a much deeper level,” said lead researcher Helen Bolt. “The ODA and project leaders made the effort to ensure they were not just managing a process, but collaborating and encouraging people to work safer, which is a much more positive process.”
Creating clarity on health & safety aims and objectives is essential, Bolt added: “Project leaders should provide clarity in terms of the expectations and standards you want to see on site – plan ahead, make sure that’s communicated throughout the supply chain and applied consistently across site. It’s when those things don’t happen that projects get into problems.”
The report recommends that, among other things, contractors take time to identify future risks and decide how to manage them and ensure that the necessary infrastructure, boundaries and welfare facilities are on site early to set a tone of respect for the workforce and the standards of health and safety expected.
It says CDM coordinators should engage inter-personal skills alongside technical skills to develop relationships and collaborative working methods as a basis for problem solving and innovation to reduce risks.
Meanwhile, the report recommends clients use their influence to be a visible champion of important values for the supply chain and workforce; be clear on requirements and objectives as well as roles and responsibilities from the outset; and ensure important messages are communicated consistently and persistently through the supply chain.
“Communicating the importance of health & safety culture to workers should be everyone’s top priority, and making sure that other behaviour and work pressures don’t undermine that message. When the client or employer makes it clear that health & safety is important on site, and they praise and value work that’s done safely, it reinforces this message and makes it clear that it is a genuine priority,” said Bolt.