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Going beyond Gold

23 January 2013

Going beyond Gold, held at the CBI in June brought together contractors, managers and workers involved in the Olympic construction project so they could share their experiences and help disseminate best practice. Event orga

Going beyond Gold, held at the CBI in June brought together contractors, managers and workers involved in the Olympic construction project so they could share their experiences and help disseminate best practice. Event organiser, Neal Stone tells HSM more about lessons from the day

As Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, unveiled the Olympic rings at Tower Bridge, a more significant Olympic-related event was taking place across London, bringing together the London 2012 client, contractors, managers, workers plus the wider health and safety community to share their experiences and help disseminate best practice.

'Going beyond Gold', held at the CBI on 28 June, just one month before the opening of the London 2012 games, lacked the press coverage and razzamatazz accompanying the unveiling of the Olympic rings. It did, however very publicly place on record the exemplary performance achieved by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), CLM the delivery partner, the major and other contractors and all of those who worked on the construction projects in managing the many and varied health, safety and environmental risks they faced.

The conference, organised by the British Safety Council with the support and cooperation of key corporate members who delivered the London 2012 construction projects (including the ODA, BAM Nuttall, Barhale, Carillion, ISG, Mace and McNicholas) provided the opportunity to review the mass of evidence steadily being gathered to highlight the impact of the arrangements put in place to prevent injury, ill health and environmental harm.

The keynote presentations were delivered by Jason Millett, the Programme Director for the delivery partner CLM, Lawrence Waterman, Head of Health and Safety at the ODA, Stephen Williams, HSE's Director for Operational Strategy and the London Games and John McClean, National Officer for the GMB Union.

While the focus of the conference was on leadership, workforce involvement and safety culture, the presentations and panel sessions ranged widely from the critical role of the client in driving excellence, to the contribution of HSE regulation in helping contractors, managers and workers achieve a very high standard of health and safety management and in helping to gather the evidence of impact through the research it had funded. The vital importance of visible and inspirational leadership together with an actively engaged and listened-to workforce was spelt out time and time again.

The presentation by Lawrence Waterman, awarded an OBE for his services to health and safety in the birthday honours, brought home graphically the magnitude of the health challenge that the ODA and contractors were committed to tackling. What was clear was the awareness of all of the key players of the health hazards posed, for example, by working in close proximity to contaminated soil and water.

'Health like safety' The approach adopted by the ODA was a 'health like safety' approach encouraging contractors to see health risk management as part of their day-to-day activities, and something that was simple to integrate within existing safety management. Lawrence pointed to the recently published research commissioned by HSE and undertaken by the Institute of Employment Studies in cooperation with the ODA that gathered the data to enable an evidence-based assessment of the occupational health performance of the Olympic Park construction projects.

The substitution of high hazard leadcontaining primer to one without lead content in the build of the Aquatic Centre was just one example of an initiative designed to prevent occupational disease in future years. Other less technical but equally effective initiatives included the introduction of the 'big breakfast' to tackle among other things low blood sugar levels and prevent accidents. The full research report can be accessed at http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrhtm/rr9 21.htm What came shining through from all of the presentations and the panel sessions on leadership and workforce involvement, on the contribution of young workers and the sustainability programme achievements, was the passion and commitment of all of those involved from the apprentices in their first job to those who had worked in construction for years.

What was also clear was the determination to build a health, safety and environmental legacy that would not only be taken on to other major construction projects, including the nuclear new build and major transport projects as Crossrail, but shared with other sectors too.

An abiding memory was the reflection of one of the panellists, with fifty years in construction, who recalled that within his working life construction deaths, a frequent occurrence, were marked by a whip round in the pub and little more.

Construction workers back then were seen as expendable and easily replaceable.

Immense progress has been made; but much more needs to be done and hopefully the sharing of the London 2012 construction success story will assist that process.

Details of the research reports funded by HSE and carried out in conjunction with the ODA, including on supply chain management, can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/london- 2012-games/research-reports.htm Neal Stone is the director of policy & communications at the British Safety Council.