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Improving occupational health in construction

Tackling ill health in the construction industry

  • Construction workers are 100 times more likely to die from a preventable occupational disease than from an accident*
  • 1.8 million working days lost due to self-reported illness caused/made worse by work**
  • 80,000 construction workers suffer from work-related ill health each year**

Although the construction industry has made great strides in safety over the past 30 years or so, its track record on health continues to be poor. We want to change that – it’s time to focus on health.

We wanted to get to grips with the problem of occupational health, and how it can be consistently managed to improve the workplace health of construction workers. We’re developing a new occupational health scheme for the construction industry.

Find out more about our plans »

Making it easier to manage occupational health

With over 75 years’ experience, we’re proud to have our roots firmly in construction. Now we’re looking to give something back in terms in health – we want to make managing occupational health in construction easier.

What is occupational health?

Simply put, occupational health is health in the workplace – the effect of work on health, and the effect of health on work.

Effect of work on health:

This would be things like hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), noise induced hearing loss (NIHL), asthma, eczema and dermatitis.

Effect of health on work:

For example, diabetes, musculoskeletal conditions and epilepsy. A well-known example of the effect of health on work is the case of the Glasgow bin man, who suffered a blackout on the job due to an unreported health condition, with tragic consequences.

A new occupational health scheme: our vision

In 2016 we acquired Constructing Better Health (CBH) – an occupational health scheme for the construction industry. And we quickly realised it wasn’t working.

Our vision is for a more unified approach to occupational health in construction. We want to build a digital solution that workers will be able to carry with them from site to site and job to job, giving them a better oversight of their work-related health.

Find out more about how we want to improve occupational health »

What work has been done so far towards setting up the scheme?

We carried out some initial research with the construction industry and key occupational health professionals.

Read the research findings that started us on our journey to a better occupational health solution »

Last year, we drafted our occupational health surveillance framework for construction to underpin our scheme. It was circulated to the construction industry and in 2018 the framework was finalised.

Take a look at the framework »

Be part of our journey

To keep you up to date with our latest developments in occupational health we’ve created a newsletter called The Wider View – if you haven’t already, you can sign up now.

Are you a CBH member?

We’re still operating the CBH scheme while we build our new occupational health solution. We’ve made some operational improvements to give you the best service and value for money we can.

Visit the CBH website »

*HSE, 2015
**Labour Force Survey (annual average estimates in 2014/15-2016/17)

For too long, the industry has focused on safety, to the detriment of ‘health’. We’ve been talking about health and safety since the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, but the sector’s track record on health remains poor. Statistics around work-related musculoskeletal disorders, skin and respiratory conditions continue to point to worrying levels of debilitating illness and disease.

Current health and safety legislation is complex, specifying multiple health surveillance requirements, at various intervals. Many employers have set up their own solutions, resulting in differing approaches across the industry, with some workers undergoing duplicate assessments and others getting none at all.

The industry tends to view its workers as being ‘unfit for work’ until proven otherwise. We want to bring about a positive step change in thinking, so they’re seen as fit and healthy, and wanting to stay that way.

We’re developing a new occupational health scheme for the construction industry. Our vision is for a digital solution that workers will be able to access on their phone and can carry with them from site to site and job to job.

Our first step has been to create a framework that will underpin the new scheme – a three year plan that clarifies what the complex health and safety legislation needs employers to do. By implementing it, employers will have confidence that they are legally compliant, and that workers’ health is being consistently assessed as they move from job to job. We developed the framework in collaboration with an Occupational Health (OH) Steering Group made up of employers, occupational health professionals, regulators and federations.

We’ve always been not-for-profit, and we’re guided by our values of Creating Simplicity, Keeping Promises and Showing Compassion. Our goal is to offer a solution that provides value for money, is efficient and helps employers to become better purchasers of occupational health. We will announce further details on costs in due course.

We are in detailed discussions with shortlisted suppliers to build the scheme platform, and we expect to be able to give a more detailed update on our plans and progress soon. Sign up to The Wider View newsletter on the right side of the page to keep updated.

We have a long track record of working with secure data, through our work on The People’s Pension and other financial services products. Under our new occupational health management scheme, the employer will only have access to the information they need to see to comply with their obligations under legislation – they will not be able to see details of an individual’s health data. Different users of the scheme (employers, individual members, occupational health service providers) will have varying permissions as to the data they may access. Most importantly, it will be the individual concerned who owns the complete record.

The existing CBH scheme will continue to operate until we transition to the new scheme, and further details will be announced in due course. In the meantime, we have reduced the CBH membership fees for new and existing members (existing members will be eligible for the reduced rate at their next renewal).

The aims and principles of CBH were right, but it didn’t achieve what the industry requires. We also recognise that the fee structure wasn’t representing good value for money. We believe that offering a price reduction in this interim period as we develop our new occupational health scheme believe is the right thing to do – and that’s it’s in line with our values. Existing members will be eligible for the reduced rate at their next renewal.