Five Lessons from Zero-Fatality Olympics Construction

IOSH is urging all construction companies to learn from the London 2012 building project’s success and put five good practices to use.

With the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games now under way and their facilities' construction finished without a single fatality, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is asking construction firms to use five good practices of the London 2012 build project that it says produced such a good result.

IOSH and Britain's Health and Safety Executive commissioned a team from Loughborough University's School of Business and Economics and its School of Civil and Building Engineering to examine how safety techniques were communicated by the Olympic Delivery Authority and how they affected the contractors involved in the build. IOSH released the university's findings July 25.

According to IOSH, the researchers interviewed managers and supervisors, held focus groups with workers, and found the workers "really appreciated feedback and liked that site managers were accessible, listened to concerns and, where possible, acted on them."

"The ODA's exemplary health and safety record speaks for itself. The techniques used were often low cost and had cross-company impact, showing that a good health and safety record isn't out of any company's grasp," said IOSH Executive Director of Policy Dr. Luise Vassie. "Last year, there were 50 fatalities and 2,298 reported major injuries in this sector, so IOSH would strongly encourage managers of small, medium, and multi-contractor projects to take a good look at how these results were achieved and implement some of those principles into their own health and safety strategies."

"Strong leadership, accessible supervisors, worker engagement, and reviewing practice are common tools for managers in any sector and can be easily adopted by other organizations," said Dr. Alistair Cheyne, who headed the Loughborough team. "The successful implementation of these tools on Olympic Park was due in no small part to the planning and organizing provided by ODA and the willingness of contractors and subcontractors to engage with the Park-wide processes. Perhaps the biggest success was the way in which organizations, big and small, showed how easy it was to work so closely together to tackle health and safety issues."

The five keys highlighted by IOSH for projects of any size are:

  • Lead from the top. The ODA set standards and also visibly engaged with the workforce to direct, motivate, and change behavior by focusing on its long-term goals.
  • Develop competent supervisors. Technically knowledgeable supervisors' impact upon health and safety was important, as were communication skills to influence workers’ understanding and behavior.
  • Foster an open, positive safety culture. Safety was a dominating factor of the culture.
  • Reward good behavior. Incentives and rewards helped to promote and encourage safe behavior, but positive feedback was the real reward in many cases.
  • Review and learn. Problems were constantly reviewed and communicated across the organization, and corrective actions were implemented.

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