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Ill Wealth

It’s a sad reality that if you’re killed when a crane overturns you’ll get noticed, but if you work hard in construction, suffer exposures, contract an occupational disease or illness, retire early and then die in the peace of your own home, we and the newspaper journalists are not usually watching. We might come across an ex-bricklayer driving our taxi, but we never actually saw him working on site.

For a number of reasons, over the past few decades the extended family of health and safety professionals and business managers has not been as collectively effective in the fight against ill health as it has been on the safety front. It seems health has become the poor relative of health and safety. At least Cinderella went to the ball.

The damage done in the UK construction sector alone is scandalous; the opportunity to improve is therefore huge. So now it is time to turn this negative story into a positive one. Hundreds of lives could be saved, the quality of thousands of lives can be improved, families  may be sustained and the construction sector can retain its skilled personnel. And even better: we know what the causative agents are and we know how to control them.

IIRSM is pleased to be a part of the Construction Health Leadership Group and the activity it is generating to increase awareness, and more importantly raise the activity levels in the sector to do more – lots more – about construction ill health. It is hoped the Group will host a Construction Health Summit for the leaders of the industry as a call to action later this year.

We have to challenge ourselves and our business leaders to do more. This is something we have to deliberately tackle, so remember those numbers – all real people, real lives, real harm. Seventy six thousand construction workers suffer an illness each year, and about 100 die every week. That’s something really important to shout about.

Greg Brown, IIRSM Deputy Chief Executive.

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