Savings that are likely to run into millions of pounds have been made from having a team of occupational hygienists available during the construction of the Olympic Park and Olympic and Paralympic Village, a new study reveals.

Occupational Hygiene on the Olympic Park and Athletes’ Village, which was commissioned by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and undertaken by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), identifies the potential economic benefits of preventing ill health amongst the Olympic workforce through having a ‘health like safety’ approach on site.

The research revealed that the occupational hygiene team service saved contractors, employers, the Government and staff money by:

* reducing the downtime involved in dealing with health risks;
* minimising exposure to health risks; and
* reducing the costs of sickness absence (saving the project up to £7m over three years) and reducing the future costs of work-related ill health (potentially as much as £81m for a workforce of this size).

Working with the leadership team and each project, the hygienists adopted a range of strategies to prevent work-related ill health occurring. They provided support on site so that design, method statements and risk assessments were created with a focus on eliminating and reducing exposure to health risks in the workplace. The service was free to all contractors and workers involved.

Based on an annual investment of £350,000 for the wide range of occupational hygiene provision, the service needed only to reduce absence rates amongst the workforce by an average of 30 minutes per worker to pay for itself. If work-related sickness absence and exposure rates were reduced by two-thirds compared to industry averages (in line with the reductions in safety incidents recorded on the site), the return on investment could have been as much as £7 per £1 investment in reduced sickness absence costs.

Claire Tyers, Principal Associate at IES and the research report’s main author, commented:

“With 46,000 people working on the construction of the Olympic Park and Olympic and Paralympic Village, occupational hygiene practices provided real value.

“Preventative workplace health management has the potential to deliver real economic returns, as well as keeping workers well and able to work at their full capacity. The evidence is clear on this, and construction projects of any size could adopt similar approaches, suitable to their size, and see the benefits for themselves.”

Lawrence Waterman, Head of Health and Safety for the Olympic Delivery Authority, said:

“The London 2012 Games will open against the stunning backdrop of the Olympic Park and Olympic Village, and we know that with the help of the hygienists the health of workers who have created this setting has been enhanced by their work experience rather than harmed. The IES report proves that this wasn’t just the right thing to do, but it has also saved an enormous amount of money.

“Good occupational health is obviously a good investment.”