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Health & Safety: The site in safe hands

Health and safety across all Olympic sites is the responsibility of the ODA's Lawrence Waterman.

Of all the jobs on the London 2012 Olympics, Lawrence Waterman has perhaps the most challenging. He is the Olympic Delivery Authority's man responsible for construction-related health and safety across all the London 2012 venues.

But Waterman is unfazed by the task he faces. Before joining the ODA, he headed up construction health and safety consultancy Sypol and many of the companies he deals with daily for the Olympics he knows well because they are former clients.

With construction on the Olympic Stadium under way and efforts at the Olympic Park ahead of schedule, Waterman is quietly pleased with the attitude so far taken to health and safety programmes throughout the project's delivery.

"I think there are some early signs that the construction industry as a whole is really up for this, and that the whole idea of building something to celebrate the human spirit and human physicality, the Olympics, needs to be done with a similar attention to the well-being of the people who are engaged in the work," says Waterman.

The contractors working on the programme seem to have taken this ideology to heart, as to date there have been several periods where a million consecutive man hours were worked with no reportable incidents. This equates to an average accident frequency rate (AFR) for the past year of 0.1, one of the best records of any major construction programme.

"The calibre of contractors that are working on the London 2012 programme is very high. They are at the front end of the industry trying to work out how to improve performance, so we find we're working in a very cooperative environment, we're not having to behave like Big Brother," explains Waterman.

Due to the scale of the programme of works, Waterman believes it is impossible for the ODA to micro-manage every aspect of construction safety and so has opted for a more proactive, collaborative approach that ensures safety issues are embedded in each aspect of the delivery programme.

During the early stages of each 2012 project, Waterman is part of the team responsible for signing off the designs to ensure that adequate consideration has been given at each step to safety considerations, and avoid expensive safety rethinks at a later date when the job is on site.

Procurement is another example of where the usual processes have been moulded to accommodate health and safety. The project team must assess all bidders' ability to deliver while maintaining health and safety standards set out in their contract with the ODA.

Waterman explains: "The role of the health and safety operation as one of the priority themes for the ODA is to make sure everyone who is working, whether they are design managers or people working in finance, are always looking for opportunities to breathe health and safety into the work that they do.

So if you cut the ODA in any place, you can read H&S in the slice."

One of the key areas for safety on the 2012 Games programme is that of logistics. "The occupational health programme is run as one of the sub-projects within logistics, so logistics are really at the heart of the way in which health and safety operates in terms of construction management," Waterman comments.

The importance of attention to the smaller details such as the provision of vertical concrete barriers between haul roads and walkways cannot be overstated as far as Waterman is concerned. The construction of a pedestrian footbridge for site workers over one of the busiest haul roads in the Park demonstrates in his eyes the kind of commitment to health and safety that he would like to see as commonplace.

He says: "This is a programme that's being run on the basis that the best elements of the construction industry are working with us rather than the client trying to micromanage such a complex project.

"We can't spend all our time wagging fingers at the contractors; what we've got to do is create a context in which they share information with each other and with us and achieve excellent performance."

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