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8 August 2012 | PR 12/150

London 2012 build project a model for health and safety says new study

Olympic Park


Innovative communication techniques that helped to prevent worker deaths during the Olympic build could be harnessed to benefit other construction projects – a research study carried out by Loughborough University has found.

IOSH and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) jointly commissioned Loughborough University to investigate how safety techniques were communicated and the impact they had across multiple contractors during the Olympic build. Looking at how positive worker attitudes and behaviour in health and safety were fostered by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), researchers assessed knowledge transfer in, out of, and around the Park.

Researchers found that workers really appreciated feedback and liked that site managers were accessible, listened to concerns and, where possible, acted on them.
IOSH executive director of policy Dr Luise Vassie said: “The ODA’s exemplary health and safety record speaks for itself. The techniques used were often low cost and had cross-company impact, showing that a good health and safety record isn’t out of any company’s grasp.

“Last year there were 50 fatalities and 2,298 reported major injuries in this sector, so IOSH would strongly encourage managers of small, medium and multi-contractor projects to take a good look at how these results were achieved and implement some of those principles into their own health and safety strategies.”

The study was carried out by a team from the School of Business and Economics and the School of Civil and Building Engineering at Loughborough University. 

Leader of the research team, Dr Alistair Cheyne from the School of Business and Economics, said: “Strong leadership, accessible supervisors, worker engagement and reviewing practice are common tools for managers in any sector and can be easily adopted by other organisations.  The successful implementation of these tools on Olympic Park was due in no small part to the planning and organising provided by ODA, and the willingness of contractors and sub-contractors to engage with the Park-wide processes.  Perhaps the biggest success was the way in which organisations, big and small, showed how easy it was to work so closely together to tackle health and safety issues.”

From the findings, IOSH highlights five key areas that can be used in construction companies and projects of all sizes:

  1. Lead from the top. The ODA set standards and also visibly engaged with the workforce to direct, motivate and change behaviour by focusing on its long-term goals.
  2. Develop competent supervisors. The positive impact of technically knowledgeable supervisors upon health and safety was understood, as well as softer communication skills to influence understanding and behaviour.
  3. Foster an open, positive safety culture. Safety was a dominating factor of the culture. If workers are engaged and feel managers care for their wellbeing, they’re more likely to get involved with the health and safety process.
  4. Reward good behaviour. Incentives and rewards helped to promote and encourage safe behaviour. In many cases positive feedback was the real reward, as it boosted morale.
  5. Review and learn. Any problems were constantly reviewed and communicated across the organisation. Most crucially, they were learnt from to improve health and safety.

Stephen Williams, HSE director of operational strategy and London 2012 Games, said: "This is one of several research projects funded by HSE to create a learning legacy from the Olympic construction project.  Evidence that change in workers' safety behaviour has been sustained since they left the Olympic Park is a very encouraging sign that transfer of the good practice to other construction projects is already happening.  HSE is taking the lessons learned out to construction companies of all sizes and challenging them to prioritise health and safety and aim for a standard of excellence."

Professor Angus Laing, Dean of the School of Business and Economics, said: “This project exemplifies the engagement of the School with research that has significant organisational and social impact. The School is committed to working with industry leading organisations such as IOSH to deliver cutting edge academic research which shapes policy and practice.”


For all media enquiries contact:

Judy Wing
Senior PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 228697
E: J.L.Wing@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2011 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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