The Department for Health and the NHS are in talks with construction safety experts over an occupational health scheme for the industry, writes Sarah Richardson.
The negotiations coincide with the release of Health and Safety Executive statistics that show that construction tradespeople suffer more work-related health problems than the average worker. They also suggest that there has been no significant improvement in their health in the past five years.
Building understands that officials from the DoH and NHS Plus, the health service’s occupational health network, are meeting with the managers of Constructing Better Health over ways to resource a scheme. CBH is an occupational health pilot project launched in Leicester in October 2004.
The Department for Work and Pensions and the DTI are also understood to be talking to CBH about funding. An industry-wide scheme would be a multimillion-pound endeavour. It is likely that it would be paid for by the government and the industry.
CBH is likely to form the model for a nationwide programme. It offers workers regular health checks for common problems such as back injuries, hearing loss and high blood pressure. It has discovered that on average one-third of those screened had undetected health problems.
The HSE statistics underline why the industry now needs to address this issue
Trevor Walker, CBH
The launch of a nationwide scheme is likely to coincide with the start on site of Olympic construction projects.
The HSE’s occupational health figures for 2004/5, released in full last week, show that 4.7% of people working in construction suffered work-related health problems in the past 12 months, compared with the industrial average of 3.4%.
Trevor Walker, CBH’s chief executive, said: “These statistics further underline why the industry now needs to address this issue.”
Download the HSE report at www.building.co.uk/reports