NEWLY established body Constructing Better Health Scotland has urged those involved in the Scottish construction industry to ‘take the pledge’ to improve the long-term health and wellbeing of the industry’s workforce.
Speaking after a special awareness-raising event hosted at the Scottish Parliament, CBH Scotland Chief Executive Michelle Aldous highlighted the huge impact of long term health issues on the Scottish construction industry and the wider economy.
CBH Scotland is concerned that there is limited awareness of the significant cost to the Scottish economy imposed by occupational health issues in the construction sector. Across the economy, 98% of all health and safety related deaths in the workplace are caused by ill health rather than safety related accidents. CBH Scotland estimates the cost of occupational ill health in the Scottish construction industry to be in the region of £66 million every year.
The construction sector has one of the highest rates of work-related musculoskeletal disease of any industry with around 3,500 cases reported each year in Scotland. Overall, one third of construction workers are estimated to have occupational health issues. Meanwhile, a staggering 56% of all male occupational cancers are caused by working in the construction sector.
Working in conjunction with the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives and the Scottish Building Federation, CBH Scotland was launched in April this year with a campaign to introduce a standard baseline health check for all new apprentices entering the industry. Through a more proactive approach to occupational health management in the construction industry, CBH Scotland has estimated that this measure alone could save the Scottish economy more than £30 million over the next ten years.
CBH Scotland has published an industry pledge outlining key measures to tackle occupational health in the Scottish construction sector, which it is looking for employers, trade unions and policy-makers to sign up to.
Constructing Better Health Chief Executive Michelle Aldous said, “Some of the figures around occupational health issues in the construction industry are truly alarming: The fact that one third of construction workers are estimated to have occupational health issues; the fact that more than half of construction workers are unable to maintain their performance in work until retirement age because of long-term health issues; and the fact that 56% of all occupational cancers are caused by working in the construction sector.
“For understandable reasons, deaths from safety-related accidents tend to attract the headlines – not least because they are measured annually by industry by the Health and Safety Executive. Measuring the impact of long term ill health is much harder since many of these conditions may only become apparent years after a worker has left the industry.
“But there is much that we could do to improve the situation. Regular and consistent monitoring of the industry workforce would enable us to target support towards those most vulnerable to long term health conditions and to introduce preventative measures to protect workers from exposure to known health risks.
“I would invite anyone with an interest in tackling occupational health issues in the Scottish construction industry to join us in taking the CBH Scotland pledge. Working together, we can improve the long-term health prospects of construction workers and save the Scottish economy millions in unnecessary costs.”