Not content with running one of the biggest projects in UK history, the Olympic Delivery Authority also wants to overhaul health and safety standards
The construction works for the 2012 Olympic Games is arguably the highest profile building project currently under way. With work continuing under the world’s spotlight, contractors and designers should expect more stringent health and safety requirements than experienced previously.
The Olympic Development Authority (ODA) has taken responsibility for setting key performance indicators (KPIs) in its health and safety and environment standard, which will be mandatory for all projects. This is the first time a client on such a high-profile public project has set KPIs for health and safety. As a result, contractors should expect to comply, not just with existing Health and Safety Executive laws, but with any extra requirements set by the ODA.
The ODA’s key performance indicators will be developed further in due course, but currently include the following:
- Zero fatalities
- Accident rate (one accident per 1 million man hours)
- Evidence of process to identify and evaluate design options with regard to health and safety risks
- Score cards for lead designers, CDM co-ordinators and principal contractors.
Those involved in tendering for ODA projects will be assessed on their ability to meet the ODA standards. While the criteria that the ODA will apply are not clear, it is likely to include a review of previous prosecutions, and prohibition and warning notices. A poor health and safety record is likely to count against a prospective contractor.
While many contractors will find compliance with stringent health and safety requirements are part of any job, the level of reporting required by the ODA goes beyond anything seen previously. This is to allow the ODA to meet its commitment to publish a report for its projects of the performance against the health and safety KPIs.
The sanctions for a breach include a requirement for the party to implement a corrective action plan to remedy the breach, suspension of work and ultimately termination
For example, principal contractors, lead designers and CDM co-ordinators must report on their performance against the KPIs in the ODA standard on a monthly basis, which itself is an onerous requirement on a busy project. While you would expect a contractor to report on health and safety as part of its progress reports, it is unusual to expect them to benchmark their performance against KPIs and then to face contractual sanctions if they fail to meet them.
The sanctions for breach of the standard or failing to comply with the relevant KPIs include a requirement that the party in breach prepares and implements a corrective action plan to remedy the breach, suspension of work and, ultimately, the termination of the party’s contract. It is clear the ODA’s standard has some teeth to back up its commitment.
This introduces an additional level of exposure for parties involved in construction projects for the Olympics. In the event they fail to meet the standards, the sanctions are likely to lead to civil claims between parties. Having to undertake corrective action is likely to lead to claims for the delays. Litigation could also arise out of suspension or termination of contracts for failure to comply with the standard. This could, for example, be brought by a contractor who has lost out as a result of being dismissed following breach of standards. Such claims are likely to involve arguments over the grounds for termination.
The feedback from ODA projects appears to be positive so far, with high levels of health and safety being maintained, including a very low accident rate. As such, it is clear that health and safety will continue to be given high priority on the project. Designers, contractors and CDM co-ordinators involved in projects for the Olympics must be prepared to commit significant time and resources to ensure they meet the relevant health and safety requirements and they must also understand the consequences of failure.
It remains to be seen whether the ODA’s approach and commitment to health and safety will form a template for other high-profile publicly funded projects. Some commentators have suggested that the standards may become the norm in future for public projects. If so, it would highlight the important role that clients have in keeping workers and the public safe.
John Malins is a partner in Davies Arnold Cooper