Heathrow’s approach to off-site manufacturing hubs could boost construction workers’ wellbeing and lower suicide rates, according to the airport’s expansion director.
Heathrow Airport expansion delivery director Rob Ewen told the New Civil Engineer Airports conference that rebalancing workers’ quality of life could address the industry’s suicide rates, which are higher than any other trade.
Last year an Office for National Statistics report found that the risk of suicide among low-skilled male labourers, particularly in construction roles, was three times higher than the male national average.
“We ask them to work in poor conditions, we ask them to get in a van every Monday, to come to London to live in some little bed and breakfast dive and have to go home at the weekend and not live their lives in a balanced way,” Ewen said.
He added: “That suicide rate is a function of us expecting people to do things in low-esteem, poor conditions. If we do things in a factory and the assembly process becomes a semi-skilled process, then we’ve got a far better situation.”
The hubs are part of a plan to promote small and medium-sized enterprises by decentralising the supply chain. The aim is to increase efficiency and cut emissions. The hubs will help deliver the construction of a third runway at Heathrow,
Components will be assembled off-site at one of the hubs before being transported in consolidated loads to Heathrow as they are needed.
Heathrow Airport is to seek suppliers which can to demonstrate that they have skilled workforces, good transport links to Heathrow and an ability to collaborate on a nationally important infrastructure scheme.