A research project conducted by Loughborough University and funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) will see researchers studying the occupational safety and health (OSH) procedures and policies on site during a real construction project.
This is the first study of its kind to be conducted in the UK during a multi-site construction project, with the research focusing on the teams responsible for building the Thames Tideway Tunnel.
Due to its size, the project has been divided into three sections, each being constructed by a different joint venture team, comprising workers from the UK, France and Spain.
The construction project itself is a major undertaking, and will see Tideway build a new 25 km-long sewer tunnel that runs up to 65m below the River Thames and measures 7.2m in diameter - a sewer that’s urgently needed to help protect the river from sewage pollution.
As part of the research, teams from Loughborough University will be embedded into each of the three groups responsible for the different sections of the tunnel, where they will be observing and monitoring health and safety procedures, and will be in a position to review their effectiveness in real time.
Professor of complex project management at the university’s School of Civil and Building Engineering, Alistair Gibb explained that this presents an exciting opportunity to deviate from the usual research approaches taken within OSH.
“This project gives us a unique opportunity to monitor OSH within a living lab, and to provide real-time feedback that will enable managers to make changes and improvements,” he enthused.
Professor Gibb added that it also gives managers a chance to evaluate how effective their policies and procedures are during the construction process. Typically, he explained, OSH research takes a snapshot approach and rarely involves such a lengthy period of observation.
Head of information and Intelligence at IOSH Kate Field commented that her organisation hopes the project will “provide new insights into key OSH issues”.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), construction is a high-risk sector when it comes to workplace accidents and illness. The organisation’s statistics show that four per cent of people working in the construction sector suffer an illness that they believe is caused by their work, while three per cent of the workforce sustains an injury in the workplace.
As a result of the injuries and illnesses reported by staff in the sector, the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) estimates that 2.2 million working days are lost, on average, each year.
While all businesses in the industry are expected to comply with the relevant HSE regulations, it never hurts to revisit and check your incident response plan to ensure it is current and covers all the eventualities you may encounter during your work.
If you need help formulating such a plan, or looking at other aspects of emergency preparedness on large construction projects, it can pay to call in experts to help you prepare for every eventuality.
The IOSH-funded research will follow workers from the early stages of the Tideway Tunnel construction through to its completion, which is currently scheduled for 2023.