When construction work began on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Olympic Village project in 2005, it is highly likely that no-one at the time could have imagined how this project alone would transform the meaning of the phrase “health and safety” forevermore.
Then, occupational health was synonymous with the outsourcing of doctors and nurses, often through clinical interventions, with a focus on the individual situation, rather than it forming a core part of a workplace management system. Karen Baxter and Lawrence Waterman, who went on to be co-founders of the Park Health & Safety Partnership, were leading figures in the – ill health prevention work in the Olympic Village project. Karen and the occupational hygiene team knew that mind-sets needed to change for health to be taken as seriously as safety. Coining the now famed phrase “Health Like Safety™”, a new approach was outlined. The strategy addressed workplace exposure issues - including dust, noise and hazardous substances, with clear risk assessment plans. Most importantly, it stressed the need to treat any workplace health risks in the same way safety issues were approached - immediately, with instant outcomes, implementing control measures and using monitoring techniques as a supportive tool to evaluate the success of such controls.
Encouraging employers to manage workplace health in the same way safety was handled, was a huge break from the past in a very high profile project that employed 80,000 people, with 80 million man hours and the first Olympic construction project ever that resulted in zero fatalities.
The Park Health & Safety Partnership: Origins
Following this success, Baxter and Waterman founded the Park Health & Safety Partnership, commonly referred to as Park, bringing together a team of highly experienced occupational hygiene and safety specialists all passionate about ill health prevention, dedicated to helping organisations create best practice health management systems. The organisation’s pioneering 4W approach is still used today and focuses on:
Workplace, ill health prevention – the impact of a person’s work on their health
Worker, clinical intervention – the impact of a person’s health on their work
Wellbeing, health promotion – the use of the workplace to promote health
Wider Community, outreach to workers’ families and the local population - to improve health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities
Occupational hygienists at Park embed themselves firmly into the health and safety teams on the projects they work on, implementing recommendations on site and managing them in real time. This goes beyond conventional expectations of occupational hygienists, where they visit a site once, make recommendations and leave a report for the employer to implement. Core skills include anticipation and recognition of hazards to health that may result in injury, illness or affect wellbeing of workers, utilising expertise to prevent and control hazards.
Keeping An Eye: Casella monitoring equipment
Monitoring equipment is used by Park consultants on a daily basis, for work they are completing on some of the most high profile construction projects in the UK. Casella’s personal dust sampling pumps and noise dosimeters help consultants to identify potential health hazards and later, to provide data evidence of the effectiveness of recommended control measures.
Commenting on Casella’s equipment and its application in day to day processes, James Barnes, occupational hygienist at Park said “The main feature I look for in equipment is robustness, and Casella’s equipment is exactly that. Accuracy is key for us, and we must have reliable monitoring equipment that maintains a constant flow rate, giving us time to focus on the task in hand, knowing that the monitoring controls are firmly in place.”
Recently, a high profile tunnelling project involving a spray concrete lining resulted in increased levels of dust in the air. Using data gleaned from Casella’s Apex2 dust sampling pump, Barnes was able to identify this exposure and continue to monitor exposure levels both in the directly affected area and wider working area - ensuring that all sprayers, engineers, plant operators and any other individuals on site did not exceed maximum exposure limit levels. The decision was made to incorporate an entirely new air management system and dust protection zone to control the exposure. Within a certain distance, employees were instructed to wear dust masks. In addition to this, DeDuster® systems were installed in the area to filter the air.
The new systems resulted in increased noise levels, which James was alerted to instantly using data taken from the dBadge2, Casella’s personal noise dosimeters worn by the workforce, enabling further preventative measures to be implemented.
Asking workers to wear the monitoring equipment could present some challenges, but its ease of use enables James to ensure workers are fully included in the process, explaining what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how the equipment works.
“This ensures that workers do not feel we are checking up on them; instead, doing all we can to ensure their exposures are kept to an absolute minimum”, Barnes commented. If the monitoring equipment does identify a particular issue or concern, the occupational hygienist on site will run a toolbox talk to explain the results in greater detail, producing a short summary that can be put in a public place, ensuring everyone in the team feels included – a fantastic morale booster.
Real Time Monitoring
Casella’s monitoring equipment is created to improve the working environment for employees, utilising technology to provide robust data, assisting the process of keeping exposure levels to a minimum, ensuring compliance with health and safety regulations. Park has been using this equipment since the organisation started.
Commenting on James and his team’s use of the Casella equipment, Tim Turney, technical product manager at Casella said “Park consultants using our dust and noise monitoring equipment to achieve their industry revered Health Like Safety ™ approach demonstrates how monitoring systems can be effortlessly incorporated as permanent tools within a working environment. This accessibility is critical. Often, such equipment can be seen as something that simply provides data once and creates a report. It is great that James and his team are using the equipment constantly to monitor the environment individuals are working in, changing processes as a result of the findings with individual health an absolute priority.”