Champions! I expect we’ll be seeing quite a few of them over the coming weeks now that the London Olympics are underway.

But there’s something else I would like to personally champion here, something that’s unlikely to receive quite as much attention as the athletes and sports people competing at the Games. What I would like to champion is the exceptional health and safety achievement of the development of the Olympic Park and Athletes’ Village.

Construction sites are among the most dangerous places to work in the UK. Even though only around 5% of employees in Britain work in the industry, it accounts for more than a quarter of all workplace deaths.

From the outset, the Olympic Development Authority (ODA) – the public body responsible for developing and building the new venues and infrastructure for the Games – committed itself to protecting the workforce.

The ODA set high standards for the design of buildings and for the appointment of contractors and it was clear from the beginning about what it expected in terms of both health and safety.

The number of people employed at the Olympic Park and Athletes’ Village sites peaked at 13,000, and overall a total of more than 40,000 people worked on the project. Despite this, not a single person lost their lives.

Also, the accident rate was not only well below the construction industry average, it was less than the average for all workplaces in Britain.

Importantly, the health of workers as well as their safety was not forgotten. Over 2,000 workers were seen each month by specialist health teams on the Park and in the Village.

Occupational hygienists were employed and it has since been calculated that the subsequent reduction in sickness absence saved the project around £7 million.

This is a hugely positive story. It tells us that a strong commitment to high management standards at the outset not only protects lives, it also significantly reduces accidents, ill-health and costs.

There’s a lot we can all learn from the legacy of this project, not only in terms of health and safety, but for many other aspects of running a major operation. For more, visit learninglegacy.london2012.com/

About Teresa Budworth