Last edited 02 Sep 2019

Occupational health in the construction industry

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The term ‘health’ has evolved over time from referring simply to the body's ability to function, to include physical, mental and social wellbeing.

According to ‘Occupational health risk management in construction. A guide to the key issues of occupational health provision’ published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in November 2015:

Occupational ill health refers to all health problems in the work environment. The term covers health problems workers bring to the workplace, as well as health issues caused or made worse by work. It covers serious and fatal diseases, physical effects on skin, breathing, hearing, mobility and functioning, and psychological effects on mental wellbeing. Effects may be immediate and visible, but are more often unseen and take a long time to develop, so vigilance and monitoring can be key to identifying problems. Some effects can be cured if diagnosed early; many can only be prevented from getting worse. Of course, some diseases are terminal.

The guide was published due to a “...widespread misunderstanding of what ‘occupational health’ means in the construction sector and the employers’ misguided perception that health is more difficult to manage than safety”.

It suggests that construction workers are at least 100 times more likely to die from a disease caused or made worse by their work than they are from a fatal accident. It proposes that managing workplace health helps employers to retain experienced and skilled workers, and it helps employees maintain productive employment.

Key occupational health risks include:

The guide proposes a risk management cycle that includes:

  • Identification of hazards.
  • Assessment of risks.
  • Selection of controls.
  • Implementation and recording of findings.
  • Monitoring and review.

Occupational hygiene is the professional discipline of recognising, evaluating and controlling risks to health in the workplace to prevent ill health.

For more information see: http://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/meetings/iacs/coniac/coniac-oh-guidance.pdf

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