When we’re asked to picture a construction worker, we usually imagine a high-vis top and a hard hat, such is the impact that safety regulations have had on the sector.
This, clearly, is positive. But it masks a deeper and longer-term issue: for all the focus on safety, emphasis on workers’ health has been overlooked. Here, the construction industry faces a major problem.
Every year in the UK, 80,000 construction workers suffer from an illness that was caused or made worse by their work. 3,000 of them suffer from breathing and lung problems for the same reason and over 2.3 million working days are lost due to workplace injury (17%) and work-related illness (83%)*. All this in a developed country. In the 21st century.
One final statistic: construction workers in the UK are over 100 times more likely to die from a preventable illness brought on through poor occupational health care (e.g. asbestos poisoning or complications from dust inhalation) than they are from an accident at work*. This would be inconceivable in financial services, tourism, journalism, or for that matter, any other profession. So why has it become acceptable in construction?
Our answer is that it shouldn’t be, which is one of the reasons we are so pleased to be working with B&CE, the non-profit organisation behind The People’s Pension, to build a permanent solution.
B&CE’s vision is to change the construction industry’s approach to occupational health. As a part of that, we are a helping them to build and deploy a simple, cost-effective, digital end-to-end solution for managing occupational health in construction.
The benefits of the solution will be wide-ranging. Employers will get access to an industry-leading framework, giving them guidance on the types of health surveillance their workers need, according to the hazards they are exposed to. It will also enable them to comply more easily with complex health and safety regulations.
Occupational health service providers will gain access to a consolidated market of potential customers, with best practice designed into the system.
Finally, and most importantly, construction workers will have better oversight of their work-related health during their working lives. They’ll be able to access their health record from their mobile phone, meaning they can carry their records with them from site to site and job to job, helping to avoid costly duplicate appointments, while ensuring they get the health surveillance they need. All of this will ultimately give workers a better chance of living longer, healthier lives.
Gate One’s purpose is to deliver ‘Change that Counts’, not just for our clients but also for the people and the communities they serve. If there was ever a programme that epitomised ‘Change that Counts’, then this must be it. It gives me a profound sense of pride to be able to play even a small part in delivering it.