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Direct employment is real key to Olympic safety, says Ucatt

28 Oct 11 Construction union Ucatt says that a report out this week into the lessons learned from constructing the London 2012 Olympics facilities has missed the key safety factor.

The Health & Safety Executive report attributed the low accident rate on the Olympic Park to strong leadership and worker involvement.

However, Ucatt believes that the real key was the agreement reached in 2007 between the unions and the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) that only directly employed workers should be employed on the Olympic Park. By ensuring regularised employment and basic employment rights, workers had the confidence to raise safety concerns without the fear of being sacked.

The level of success of how direct employment rules reduced accidents is demonstrated by comparing the accident rates between the Olympic Park and the Olympic Village, Ucatt says. On the Olympic Park workers had to be directly employed, but no such rule existed on the Olympic Village, creating a far more casualised working environment.

The accident rate on the Village was 66% higher than on the Park.

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In the final three months of 2010, when work was nearly at its peak, the accident frequency rate on the Village reached 0.24 million man hours compared to a rate of 0.11 on the Olympic Park.

The higher accident rates on the Village were despite it being a relatively straightforward housing project, compared to the unique construction nature of the Olympic Park.

Ucatt acting general secretary George Guy said: “It is vital to understand why the Olympic Park achieved a very low accident rate. If the construction industry really wants to learn the lessons from the Olympics it is that sites where workers are directly employed are far safer, especially when this is combined with strong union involvement from an early stage.”

Regional secretary Jerry Swain added: “The difference between the accident rates on the Olympic Village and the Olympic Park is stark. Direct employment allied with full-time union representation created the environment in which worker involvement could be achieved.”

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