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Better leadership needed to cut construction fatalities, says ODA chief

Olympic Delivery Authority chairman John Armitt yesterday blamed those who take shortcuts and the people who turn a blind eye to it for the industry’s failure to cut fatalities.

Speaking at the Combining safety, health and environment – have we succeeded? conference at the ICE, London Armitt said that changes to tackling safety on major sites and smaller responsible sites have been significant.

However, he stressed that reported figures from the Health and Safety Executive have shown fatality figures have remained static in the past six or seven years.

Despite citing moving vehicles and falling from height as the principal cause of these deaths, Armitt added: “My own observations tell me that the cause is often an individual taking a shortcut. Management and people at director level make a mistake if they simply say that person is a ‘silly chump’ [for taking a shortcut].

“It’s down to leadership. Every time we turn a blind eye [to that behaviour] we’re putting another nail in another coffin.”

He went on to say that promoting safe working comes down to a change in culture through leadership. In addition, he put responsibility with smaller firms. “The largest challenge is in the SME area – which is a large area.”

Armitt also addressed concerns about waste management on site and said the Olympics site is achieving a 75% recovery of contaminated soil and recycling 95% of construction waste.

However, he said: “I would challenge designers and ask ‘do they really seek to design around the issue of waste and materials?'”

He also added that he would be interested to see whether progress in reducing construction waste across the industry will falter in the face of a global recession.

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