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Construction industry challenged to do better on worker health

Government construction health and safety supremo Philip White has warned the industry that it has “taken its eye off the ball” over efforts to combat traditional health problems among the workforce.

White, the Health & Safety Executive’s chief inspector of construction, said he was concerned that the increasing trend of firms to switch focus to employee wellbeing meant that traditional problems such as hand arm vibration and exposure to dust were being ignored.

“I have a warning and a challenge to the industry,” he said. “There is a lot of occupational health going on, particularly on the wellbeing side. But we must not lose sight of traditional health problems in the industry.

“I think that in the last two years the industry has taken its eye off the ball in this area while it looks at these broader areas.”

White was speaking last week at the Costain prestige health and safety lecture at the ICE.

“My priorities for 2012 are challenging contractors on a senior level on what they are doing on health issues,” he added.

White added that a big issue for industry remained its fragmented structure, with a lot of sites run by smaller companies without any form of welfare structure such as washing facilities or even access to hot water.

“This is a big, big challenge,” he said.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Barry Walton

    It could be useful if the ICE/NCE did some even cursory analysis of this criticism of the construction industry for neglecting an area of health protection. Figures from the HSE's reports suggest that cases of vibration white finger and perhaps similarly caused carpal tunnel syndrome are running at around 1000 new cases for the former and 500 cases for the latter per annum across all industry. Now these may be numbers (over 3,000 VWF cases in 2000/2001) that can and should be reduced but a big, big challenge? Should we be banning the sale of screw drivers, electric tooth brushes, sacking people who grip their pencils too tightly? Maybe not, there is no DWP compensation for the twisters and grippers.

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