By enforcing a zero tolerance policy on sloppy practices. So if contractors wish to win work they’ll first have to acquaint themselves with Lawrence Waterman and his exceptionally high standards.

“Of course it is impossible to totally eliminate risk,” former ODA chairman Jack Lemley told delegates at the launch of the its health and safety standard in July, “But our policy will go a long way in allowing us to mitigate against it. We want to make the London 2012 Games healthier and safer by design.”

The fact that, one year on from London’s selection as host city for the 2012 Games, the former ODA chairman could unveil a concrete set of health and safety policies demonstrates the high priority safety has had for the ODA from the time of the organisation’s conception. The standard – which includes a commitment to a fully qualified workforce on 2012 sites and a pledge to provide health checks for all construction workers – aims to ensure that safety is at the top of the agenda at all stages of the Games, from the selection of contractors to the legacy use of venues.

Now, having appointed occupational health pioneer Lawrence Waterman head of health and safety, the ODA is working to develop its policies across procurement, site safety and occupational health initiatives. It wants to put in place a system that goes beyond straightforward prevention of accidents, aiming to have a positive impact on the health and well-being of all workers involved in the construction programme.

Procurement plans

The health and safety standard set out by Lemley in July illustrates some of the commitments the ODA is asking for from its contractors, as early as the procurement stage (see ‘The health and safety standards’, starting page 41). High on the list is a target of a fully qualified workforce, in line with the CSCS scheme standards, which include a compulsory health and safety test. Contractors will also be expected to follow a “zero tolerance policy” towards unsafe practices and unhealthy working conditions if they are to be retained by the ODA.

Those bidding for work need to provide hard evidence that they are capable of meeting our standards

Lawrence Waterman

Contractors’ potential to achieve these standards is being stringently assessed by the ODA board as it considers bids for 2012 work. “The procurement process includes an evaluation of companies’ commitment to the standards, their competencies and their track record,” says Waterman. “Those bidding for work need to provide hard evidence that they are capable of meeting our standards.”

This evidence is recorded in an audit trail leading back to the pre-qualification stage of bids, to ensure it has to be properly assessed by the ODA board. One company whose safety record has already stood it in good stead with the ODA board is Heathrow Terminal 5 contractor Laing O’Rourke. The firm, which in consortia with CH2M Hill and Mace has been appointed delivery partner for the Games, has been publicly praised by ODA chief executive David Higgins for its pioneering safety policies on T5 (see overleaf), many of which are likely to form a basis for the ODA’s own measures.

Safety onsite

The target of a fully CSCS carded workforce is at the centre of the ODA’s policy on site safety. The scheme, which has buy-in from unions and employers, is the industry’s most widely recognised standard of skills competency and safety awareness. Making the cards mandatory on ODA sites is a policy which has been supported by the construction industry and government in the 2012 construction commitments, a series of standards for 2012 sites agreed between construction trade bodies, the ODA, the DTI and the Department for Culture Media and Sport. The Major Contractors’ Group is among the most vocal backers of the initiative, having made a parallel commitment to enforce CSCS compliance on all of its sites by January next year. The ODA is also considering a smart card initiative for workers, which would provide an even more secure check that only qualified, identified workers are allowed on site.

One of the major safety concerns in the construction industry over the past year has been the increasing number of migrant workers. The Health and Safety Executive has highlighted language barriers and differences in training as problems that can increase the likelihood of accidents on site. As a result of this, the ODA is developing a series of initiatives to improve safety among foreign workers. Measures under discussion include buddying schemes with English workers, and the provision of English language courses and translating supervisors. “Where we can identify practical, physical measures to help the problem we will,” says Waterman.

Where we can identify practical, physical measures to help the problem we will

Lawrence Waterman

Occupational health and well-being

Encouraging better integration between migrant and English workers is also part of the ODA’s aim to increase the well-being of workers onsite. The ODA is enforcing the Respect for People code, making a stance against bullying and violence. “We will be having site awareness programmes, such as a ‘Don’t walk by’ initiative, to minimise harassment among workers and staff,” says Waterman. The ODA is also considering the introduction of cashless vending onsite, so that workers are not targets for monetary theft.

The ODA is also committed to occupational health in the more straightforward sense. The increasing evidence of undetected work-related health problems among construction workers, particularly musculoskeletal disorders and hand-arm vibration syndrome, is one of the biggest issues facing the industry. As the chairman of occupational health consultancy Sypol, and the driving force behind industry occupational health pilot Constructing Better Health, it is not surprising that Waterman has occupational health initiatives as a high priority.

He is in talks with the NHS and primary care trusts in east London to develop a way of providing health checks for all workers, a pledge made in the ODA’s health and safety standards. “We want more than just a medical service, we want to have general health support,” he says.

Waterman is also developing plans for a paramedic service on site, possibly provided in conjunction with the London Ambulance Service. He is conscious of the strain this could provide on medical resources in the area, but is determined to find a solution to the problem. “We don’t want to create local bottlenecks in the health care systems,” he says. “We won’t get full vacant possession of the site until summer next year, but we want to have our health programme in place by then, working with local health care providers. We have a set of underlying values, and we will be staying with them.”