The organisers in charge of building the Olympic park and athletes’ village have been praised for delivering gold medal-standard facilities on time without compromising health and safety standards.
According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), the ‘Big Build’ project is “the first Olympic project of its kind in the world to have been completed without an accident-related fatality”.
This is no mean achievement given that at its peak there was a 12,500-strong workforce constructing the Olympic Park and Athletes’ Village.
The company’s lawyers know how dangerous the construction industry can be.
So it is amazing that the Olympic project’s accident frequency rate is not only lower than the construction sector as a whole but is more in line with the average across all UK employment sectors.
Tom Mullarkey, RoSPA’s chief executive, said: “The lessons the project has generated for health and safety form an important part of the overall Olympic legacy - with enormous potential to influence health and safety in the UK.”
While the accident statistics should rightly be celebrated as an early piece of British Olympic glory, the construction industry as a whole should not be complacent about its safety record.
2010/11 Construction Industry fatalities
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released provisional data for the year April 2010 to March 2011, which shows that the construction industry loses more workers to fatal injuries than any other industry sector in the UK.
The number of construction workers killed during the period was 50. This was an increase on the previous year when 41 of the industry’s workers died.
The rate of fatal injury has increased to 2.4 per 100,000 workers compared to 1.9 per 100,000 workers in 2009/10.
Looking at this rate in a cold-hearted scientific manner suggests that none of the 12,000 Olympic constructions workers should have, statistically, been expected to die. However, Philip White, HSE's Chief Construction Inspector, does point out that construction workers tend to enjoy greater safety on larger projects like the Big Build.
How smaller construction firms can become safer
He said: "The majority of deaths continue to be on small construction sites. Big construction companies have shown steady improvements over the last decade, and we want to see smaller firms take a similar lead.”
This, he feels, can be achieved by firms “planning jobs properly, thinking before you act and taking basic steps to protect yourself and your friends".
“It’s not just about money,” he added.
Breakdown of the causes of the fatalities
Of the 50 deaths which occurred in the construction industry during 2010/2011, 15 resulted from falls; the vast majority being falls from height.
Being trapped or crushed by collapsing excavations or trenches accounted for ten deaths; the same number of deaths was caused by accidents involving vehicles and accidents relating to workers being struck by an object.
The youngest construction industry fatality was a six-year-old member of the public who tragically died after being trapped by an automated gate in Manchester.
The youngest construction worker who died during the period was an 18-year-old; the eldest was a 79-year-old self-employed worker who died during the construction of a roof covering.
Six of the 50 fatalities involved workers aged over 60; an age when public sector workers have the option to retire.
Philip White, HSE's Chief Construction Inspector, said: “We must not lose sight of the fact that 50 construction workers failed to come home last year, and that will have devastated those they leave behind.”