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LONDON—The U.K. Health and Safety Executive says the construction of the Olympic Park in the Stratfield district of London for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games is a model of good health and safety risk management.
In a report published this fall, the HSE, the U.K.'s workplace health and safety regulator, said the construction industry should learn lessons from the project to construct the stadiums that will be used in the 2012 games.
The HSE said that, as of October, there had been 68 million hours worked on construction of the Olympic Park site since work began in 2005. During that time, it said, the HSE received reports of 114 injuries and eight “dangerous occurrences.”
The Olympic Development Agency, the body charged with staging the games, adopted a “no scapegoat approach” to managing risks, which allowed workers to raise concerns without fear of reprisals, noted the HSE.
The ODA said it wanted to “go as far as possible to prevent illnesses and injuries, business losses and environmental harm due to unplanned events in our premises and on our sites.”
“The construction industry has for many years been one of the most dangerous in which to earn a living,” said Stephen Williams, the HSE's director for London 2012. “London 2012 is important because it shows that it doesn't have to be that way. No matter what size your organization, no matter what size your project, small changes in the way you operate can have a huge impact on the health and safety of your workers,” he said.
Michael Conroy Harris, a construction specialist at law firm Eversheds L.L.P. in London, said the HSE's aim to build on the lessons learned from the construction of the Olympic Park was laudable.
“Having worked on building sites in the 1980s and been a visitor to them ever since, it's astonishing just how far site health and safety has come in that time,” he said. “It's like comparing brick-style mobile phones of that time with today's smartphones—while you can see some common ancestry, it's just not the same beast anymore.”
But he said that while vast improvements in construction site health and safety had been made, there are still “clouds on the horizon.”
“Construction insolvencies are still rife, and cut-throat tendering will probably lead to increasing failures in the next few years,” he said. “It's an inescapable fact that corners will be cut by struggling businesses, and we need to be vigilant to ensure that safety is not compromised.”
The ODA, working with the HSE, used several health and safety risk management approaches to minimize accidents, according to sources.
During construction of the Olympic Park, the largest regeneration project in Europe, and the Olympic Village, the largest new housing project in Europe, the ODA used a formal scorecard approach to health and safety, according to a report authored by Phil Bust, a research associate in the Civil and Building Engineering department at Loughborough University in Loughborough, England.
In addition, the report noted, contractors, designers and construction coordinators were required to self-monitor and submit monthly reports on their health and safety performance.
Communication with workers about key issues and lessons learned from incidents also were important parts of the health and safety risk management program.
For example, Mr. Bust noted in his report, any health and safety requirements associated with or implications of workers' tasks each day were included in daily activity briefings.
During 2011, the London-based Institute for Employment Studies conducted a sample survey of workers on the site in order to gauge their views on, and involvement in, health and safety risk management at the site.
A large majority—85.1%—of respondents said they received information on the health and safety risks or hazards involved in work being done, while 80.6% said they received information on incidents and near-misses on the project, and 78.1% said they received information on changes to health and safety practices involved in work being carried out.
In a series of case studies, the HSE outlined some of the major health and safety challenges for construction workers at the site and the solutions taken to minimize risks to workers.
For example, it said, the risk of vehicles moving around the site and materials falling off those vehicles during construction of a multistory car lot at the site, was identified as a major risk. In order to minimize this risk, a traffic management plan was implemented to ensure that vehicles and pedestrians were kept apart.
The installation of modular offices, which typically is done by crane with employees working on the top of the roof of the module, also was identified as a major safety risk because workers might fall when working at height. In order to minimize this risk, the principal contractor and a subcontractor involved in this work developed a safer method whereby a framework was lifted by crane onto the modular unit at ground level avoiding the risk of workers falling, the HSE said.
The HSE said the lengthy and repeated use of drilling into concrete while securing seating to terraces in the Olympic Stadium presented three main risks to workers' health: hand-arm vibration, exposure to noise and manual handling.
To counteract these hazards, a wheeled drilling jig was developed to hold two drills that previously would have been held by hand. This, the HSE said, reduced the amount of hand-arm vibration and noise. This also reduced the time needed to complete the job, and the operator was farther away from the drill—and therefore the noise source—so risk of noise damage was reduced, it said.
During construction of the Olympic Park in the Stratfield district of London, 220 buildings were demolished, 2.75 million square yards of soil were excavated, four Iron Age skeletons were discovered and 30 new bridges were built. The possibility of unexploded World War II bombs at the site was an additional risk. Some 30,000 people will have worked on the project by 2012. Major venues for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games are:
■ Olympic Stadium: Surrounded by waterways on three sides, the stadium will have a capacity of 80,000 during the Games. Many of these seats can be removed after the event. More than 30 buildings were demolished to enable construction of the venue, and 8,500 cubic yards of crushed concrete, recycled from other areas of the Olympic Park, were used to create a solid platform on which the stadium’s foundations were built. More than 11,000 tons of steel were used to build the venue. It took six weeks to lift the 496-ton roof structure into place.
■ Aquatics Center: More than two-thirds of spectators will enter the Olympic Park via a bridge that runs over the top of the aquatic center. The roof of the center, which is shaped like a wave, weighs 3,307 tons, is 525 feet long and is 262 feet wide at its widest point.
■ Basketball arena: It is the largest-ever temporary venue to be built for an Olympic or Paralympic Games. The arena is made of 20 10-story steel arches and is 377 feet long. The 1,102-ton steel frame is wrapped in 23,920 square yards of waterproof fabric.
■ Velodrome: It was built on top of a 100-year-old landfill site, which meant its foundations had to be specially designed. More than 900 piles were driven up to 85 feet deep, and 62,782 cubic yards of material was excavated. The lifting of the roof, which is made of cabling, took eight weeks.
Source: Institution of Civil Engineers