Occupational Hygiene Posts

Tackling Ill Health Working Group

Statement of Intent

Tackling ill Health

Workplace ill health kills and ruins lives in the construction industry. Statistics indicate that a construction worker is at least 100 times more likely to die from a disease caused or made worse by their work as they are from a fatal accident.

Workplace ill health is preventable and effective management helps employers to retain experienced and skilled workers and employees to maintain productive employment. Occupational health risks can be managed by modifying processes, controlling and minimising exposure and taking precautions to prevent adverse effects.

Everyone involved in the construction industry process has a responsibility for managing occupational health risks and all parties must take ownership for their part of the process.

Workers and their representatives must be consulted regarding the provision of occupational health services to ensure they are properly targeted and deliver the right outcomes at the right time, but just checking workers’ health is not a substitute for managing and controlling occupational health risks.


The aims of the Tackling Ill Health Working Group (TIHWG) is to both reduce the potential for creating harm to the construction workforce and to reduce the incidence of occupational ill health. Thereby reducing the overall cost of ill health within the construction industry and improving the health of the UK construction workforce.

A positive effect of reducing/eliminating ill health in the construction industry would be to ultimately improve productivity. This aligns with the governments 2025 strategy.

The aim is also to provide CONIAC with 2 deliverables per year which may include projects or initiatives.


There are 4 main strands to the TIHWG objectives. These are:-

i) Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD’s) incl. Manual Handling

ii) Respiratory Health

iii) Welfare

iv) Workplace Stress

NOTE: The Asbestos Leadership Group (ALG) will not report directly to the TIHWG – but there will be links with individuals between the two groups to ensure there is an understanding of each others activities as there will without doubt be some overlap, particularly around the Respiratory Health heading.

i) Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD’s) incl. Manual Handling


1.2 million Working days are lost in the UK construction industry as a result of work related MSD”s, this amounts to 54% of all days lost through injury and ill health. There is a culture in the UK construction industry to rely on lifting and carrying rather than the use of mechanical lifting methods.  There is evidence that this results in long term conditions that can cause workers to leave the industry early. 


To eliminate and reduce risk arising from manual handling operations across the industry by the:-

·         Provision of suitable case studies  that demonstrate the whole process – through design, planning , managing and monitoring.

·         Use of insight research to promote cultural change by educating the industry about the benefits of mechanical handling aids and other tools.

·         Identify case studies and suitable options for using mechanical methods.

·         Encourage more time to plan, including encouraging designers and contractors to provide ‘heavy lifting strategies’ for all projects, so that risk can be engineered out.

·         Encourage workers to seek out suitable mechanical aides from their companies or storage before manually handling.

·         Improve accountability by providing information about sizes, weights and site access issues to material suppliers and contractors (e.g. suppliers of RSJ’s).

·         Promote more use of physiotherapists and ergonomists to advise on injury prevention as well as treatment.

·         Focus on repetitive handling tasks and the introduction of mechanised  repetitive processes as well as lifting.

ii) Respiratory Risk


Work related lung diseases include a wide-range of conditions resulting from exposure to dust and other respiratory irritants and sensitisers.  Exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust alone results in the death of over  600 construction workers each year.

The industry has united to reduce exposure.  There is a greater awareness of the risks and of the compliance standards required. 


To reduce the incidence rate and number of new cases of occupationally-related lung disease by:-

·         Publishing a guidance note for SMEs on the risks related to diesel engine exhaust emissions (DEEE’s).

·         Encourage designers and architects to design out or minimise on-site cutting, drilling or scabbling of masonry materials and reduce reliance on PPE/RPE where possible.

·         Encourage clients, cost consultants and contractors to make financial allowances for purchase of standard or specially sized special masonry units or use offsite cutting.

·         Encourage contractors to make allowance for on-site cutting enclosures with suitable dust extraction and suppression measures.

·         Work with hire companies to build in the cost of water suppression/dust extraction rather than an optional extra.

·         Link into relevant campaigns to change behaviours, including risk assessment and control measures.

·         Redefine the cost/value in QS/Procurement and identify the health cost benefit analysis of designing out the risk.

iii) Welfare


Whilst larger contractors and sites often provide good or excellent welfare facilities, this is often not the case on smaller sites and in circumstances that are often considered difficult (i.e.  Transient workers). There are often low expectations in the industry and HSE enforcement statistics are evidence that minimum standards are not always achieved.


To improve the provision and maintenance of welfare facilities for construction workers across the UK by;-

·         Providing solutions through case-studies and straightforward guidance. Including examples of welfare units/equipment that is available and typical costs associated.

·         Encourage clients and contractors to provide appropriate welfare facilities as a way showing respect to the workforce, and of securing and keeping good quality workers who will add quality and value to the project.

iv) Workplace Stress


Mental Health is a matter of great concern for the construction industry. A recently published ONS study reports that construction workers kill themselves at a rate three times higher than the male average. Studies have shown that workers in the industry consider work related stress to be a major issue.  0.4 million working days are lost due to stress, depression and anxiety – the same number lost as a result of workplace injuries. The construction industry has a poor record of tackling work-related stress.


To improve the mental wellbeing of construction workers across the UK by;-

·         Producing a guidance note for achieving a robust mental health programme.

·         Producing a toolkit that identifies main causes of workplace stress in the Construction industry and provides solutions/interventions.  This will be supported by practical case-studies suitable for both SME’s and larger organisations.

·         Promote mental health literacy and support through various channels.

·         Encourage active dialogue on workplace stress with workers and their representatives.

·         Promote use of the HSE Management Standards approach.

·         Promote business benefits of preventing occupational stress.

·         Survey of the industry to gain better insight and understanding of the issues and what the industry needs to prevent and control occupational stress.

For more info follow the link https://webcommunities.hse.gov.uk/connect.ti/coniac/grouphome


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