Unions say greater worker/union involvement secured better safety standard on the Olympic Park than on privately-funded athletes’ village

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As the Olympic Games get under way, unions and safety campaigners have welcomed final statistics which show the construction of venues for the 2102 games has been among the safest ever accomplished.

(Pictured: final phase of construction at Olympic Park, Stratford. June 2012)

The project was also completed without an accident-related construction fatality.

According to RoSPA, construction of the main 2012 venues involved around 62 million hours of work with an accident frequency rate of 0.17 per 100,000 hours – less than half the construction industry average.

However, unions say the accident rate was much worse on the athletes’ village, where there was more agency labour and a more ‘casualised’ working environment.

UCATT believes that the key to delivering a safer construction environment was the agreement reached in 2007 between the unions and the Olympic Delivery Association that only directly employed workers should be employed on the Olympic Park.

It says strict rules on regular employment and basic rights meant workers, supported by union reps, had the confidence to raise safety concerns without the fear of being sacked.

In contrast, the athletes village was commissioned during the housing boom of the mid-2000’s as a private sector building project.

After the 2008 ‘credit crunch’, when much of the private sector investment dried up and was replaced with public funding, but the direct employment structure found in the stadium and Olympic Park construction was not imported alongside taxpayer’s money.

According to UCATT, accident rates on the Olympic Village were consistently higher.

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 Park – 66% higher.

Safety inspectors say construction around the 2012 games demonstrates that high standards can be achieved.

The Health and Safety Executive [HSE] says lessons construction companies of all sizes can learn lessons from what it described as ‘one of the safest construction projects ever’.

In a statement it said: “HSE will be taking those lessons out to the construction industry, to help ‘raise the bar’ on health and safety performance.”

Unions believe much of the safety record is simply down to worker involvement.

UCATT general secretary, Steve Murphy, 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.”


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