How rich for journalists, of all people, to be lecturing others on the perils of boozing and bingeing. Well, yes, all right.
But if you concentrate on the message rather than the messenger, there are sound reasons to worry about the health risks of excess, and not just because we're in the season of penitence and reform. Construction is a work-hard, play-hard industry. But there are signs that executives are working too hard, and consequently seeking too much release in, say, fags or the bottle. Workaholism and alcoholism are twin terrors. And, as we report this week, the organ that bears the greatest risk from them is the heart (pages 24-26).

In our article, we recount the tragic tales of how work pressure contributed to the fatal heart attacks suffered by Chris Powell of Atkins and Neil Kenworthy of MDA. They were both popular men, and both are greatly missed. The only good to come from their early deaths has been the scare they have given to former colleagues. "It's been a total wake-up call," says MDA chairman Charles Johnston. What is not required is a vow of abstinence. Construction has a proud social tradition. There will always be feasts in smoky restaurants and bibulous nights in the pub. And why not? These are a fine riposte to the health police who control the news agenda at this time of year. Perhaps Scottish farmed salmon is deadly. Maybe deodorants cause cancer. But if you took every scare story seriously you'd starve to death in bed. And construction is no place for wimps.

The answer is moderation. Mace's Steve Pycroft and Shepherd's Allan McDougall are two hard-living bosses who've turned their lives around by drinking less and exercising more. But bosses must ensure their staff follow suit. They should monitor the demands they place on them, and offer annual health screenings. It's in their interest, too. Many young managers are reluctant to take on senior roles because, frankly, they don't want to look like their boss. Pressure for change will also come from clients. They are already introducing random breath and drug testing. Next, they'll want assurances that those in charge of their multimillion-pound investments are in a good physical and mental state. People, as well as buildings, will have to be fit for purpose. Are you?

… and a question of honour

Many thanks to all who submitted nominations for our alternative honours system.

We launched the appeal last week, you may recall, in response to the pitiful recognition the industry received in the 2004 New Year’s Honours list. A mere three accolades, to be precise. Many of those on your list may eventually be honoured. And if the exercise persuades those in the industry responsible for nominations to cast their net more broadly, or influences the Whitehall mandarins who make the final decisions to look at construction afresh, then it will have been worthwhile. Today was the original deadline for nominations, but we’ve decided to extend it for another week – to 23 January.

Email your suggestions to, or fax 020-7560 4080, or text 07786-200117, prefixing your message with “COMMENT”. Keep ’em coming.