Construction Industry leaders joined forces to raise awareness on the importance of protecting respiratory health on site.
2nd February 2021
On the 2nd February, over 340 construction industry professionals from across the country joined the virtual Action on Respiratory Health summit. This event saw the RVT Group joining forces with the HSE, HCLG, BOHS, CDP, Tideway, HS2, Balfour Beatty and Skanska to deliver a series of informative talks and videos about the importance of protecting respiratory health on site.
As an industry we have made many positive changes over the years, but we also know that there is more to be done and we need to work together to better protect the respiratory health of our work force. This summit emphasised that effective standards and compliant hazard control on site are the only ways to prevent deaths that could have been avoided had the correct protection been in place.
The event opened with a hard-hitting keynote presentation from Professor David Fishwick, Consultant Respiratory Physician and the HSE’s Chief Medical Advisor, about the consequences of not properly protecting your respiratory health. He warned the construction industry, "Our lungs are amazing, your lungs are amazing, but you are fragile, and dust and viruses can easily compromise them."
After this, seven industry professionals offered their perspectives on the issue of respiratory health on construction sites. Sarah Jardine, the HSE’s Chief Inspector of Construction, spoke on how changes to site standards and hazard control will be encouraged going forward, explaining that "people tend to focus on RPE, but risk management is much more effective; look at controls higher up the hierarchy." Sarah also revealed that during 2020 inspections, "one in three sites were found to be non-compliant".
Skanska’s Health, Safety and Wellbeing Director Dylan Roberts, who is also an executive member of the HCLG, provided an outline of where we are as an industry on protecting respiratory health, and where we are aiming to be by 2025.
Chair of the Construction Dust Partnership, Colin Nottage described how the CDP operates and supports the construction industry. Jennie Armstrong, Head of Occupational Health and Wellbeing at Tideway, also representing BOHS and Construction Health and Wellbeing Ltd., gave her perspective on the key challenges faced on sites today.
This was followed by a video and discussion from Fiona King, Head of Occupational Health at HS2, on the existing and newly implemented site standards at HS2. Occupational Health and Hygiene Specialist Ian Strudley, representing Balfour Beatty and HCLG, touched on the hierarchy of control and highlighted the positive steps that have been taken at Balfour Beatty to keep workers safe on site.
The Industry Perspective session was rounded off by Kevin Dupont, who introduced RVT’s 3C’s methodology – Capture, Contain, Control – and how this can be applied to protect against respiratory health hazards.
After a short video on the impacts of respirable dust, a lively panel discussion took place between the speakers, led by Colin Nottage. Attendees were asked to submit their thoughts and questions upon registering, which were then condensed down into four main questions:
What are the biggest barriers/ challenges to implementing effective respiratory controls on site and how do we overcome them?
Who's responsibility is respiratory health?
Can we say "RIP to RPE"?
What impact has COVID-19 had on respiratory health on site?
Under each question a wide range of issues were discussed, including employee awareness and attitude, management and planning, risk assessment, the possibility of designing out and the engineering controls available. There was also great interest in the topical discussion of Covid-19 and it’s effect on the industry; though the virus has given more exposure to the importance of respiratory health, the upsurge in use of disposable face coverings has caused confusion in what is appropriate and effective on site.
Every attendee who submitted a question was entered into a prize draw for a £100 Amazon Gift Card. Today, the winner was Daisie Rees Evans of CIOB, who broached the thought-provoking topic of Covid-19’s long term impacts on the construction industry.
RVT’s events team was thrilled by the unprecedented popularity of the summit in the current circumstances. Despite Covid, industry professionals are still determined to find solutions to dangerous site hazards and are passionate about protecting long-term health.
A huge thank you to the speakers the supporters and the attendees for making this event such a success.
Here, you can find a range of useful resources on protecting respiratory health on site.
Additionally, if you would like to watch this event again, there is a link available at the bottom of the page that will take you to the video.