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Relationships key to Olympic construction safety

3 Dec 12 The secret to the good safety record on the London 2012 Olympic Park construction project was not down to direct employment of the workforce but simply “respect and clarity”, according to a study funded by the Health & Safety Executive.

Researchers from Loughborough University identified 13 characteristics in relationships between clients, contractors, designers, workers and regulators during Olympic Delivery Authority's Big Build.

Lead researcher Helen Bolt said: "The most important thing we discovered in this research was the value of the relationships between individuals and organisations. Of all the characteristics of the relationships in evidence during Big Build, the most critical were respect and clarity - they underpin everything, are not costly or difficult to achieve and can have a significant impact on safety culture and standards."

Trades unions have pointed to the difference in safety records between the Olympic Park, where the workforce was directly employed and the accident rate was low, and the Olympic Village, which had a significantly inferior safety record and relied on subcontracted labour. However, the Loughborough study only alludes to this issue without addressing it directly.

Alistair Gibb, Royal Academy of Engineering Professor at Loughborough University, said: "Successful safety management relies on systems and people working together in tandem - neither is sufficient on its own and they rely on each other to achieve the best outcomes."

Laing O'Rourke executive director Howard Shiplee, who is also a member of the HSE board, was ODA director of construction. He said: "Though London 2012 was a unique experience for everyone involved, fundamentally it was no different from other construction projects and there is no reason that what worked during the Olympic Park build cannot work elsewhere.

"Getting the right culture and relationships in place early pays dividends not just for health and safety but for so many of the benchmarks for success, like delivering the project on time and within budget with high productivity and sustainability.

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"This doesn't occur accidentally, providing clarity from the outset is essential and measures need to continue through all phases, not just construction but into fit-out. As we have all seen though, the results can be inspirational - a beacon to the rest of the world."

The accident frequency rate on the Olympic Park site was 0.16 per 100,000 hours worked - less than the building industry average of 0.55, and less than the all industry average of 0.21. There were no work-related fatalities on the whole London 2012 construction programme.

However, on the Olympic Village build the accident rate was 66% higher than on the Olympic Park, construction union Ucatt has pointed out.

The Loughborough report, Pre-conditioning for success: Characteristics and factors ensuring a safe build for the Olympic Park, can be found at:

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