As we emerge from the global Covid-19 pandemic we all need to evaluate the lessons learnt for how we manage occupational safety and health for workers on construction sites moving forward, writes Dr Conor Buggy, associate professor in occupational and environmental studies, UCD Centre for Safety and Health at Work.

The pandemic has shown the sector how ill-prepared it was for a highly infectious and transmissible disease (especially considering how close construction workers must interact with one another) but also how the sector adapted quickly to bring workers back on sites as lockdowns ended, resumed and ended over the course of 18 months.

Significant pressure

Health and safety teams for construction sites across the county were under significant pressure to risk assess, adapt and develop procedures to ensure workers could remain healthy and safe on site while also ensuring that they did not bring Covid-19 back to their families and friends at the end of the day.

These health and safety teams rose to the occasion supremely because they were experienced, adaptable and had appropriate occupational safety and health education and training behind them allowing them to take ownership of the huge problems they faced and take the lead on being able to continuously risk assess and monitor as the pandemic unfolded.

Huge lessons in health and safety have been learned, especially in the areas of on-site disease transmission and hygiene, new ways to undertake processes to protect workers health and safety appropriately and importantly in the areas of mental health, wellbeing, and resilience amongst construction workers.

It is imperative that those lessons are not lost, and the construction sector move forward with all those considerations in mind – not only for future pandemics but also for health and safety of workers in the here and now.

So many good new practices have emerged from updated risk assessment processes, open dialogue between construction workers and their management and the coming forward of construction workers to discuss workplace stress and mental wellbeing.

Move forward sustainably

These are all important factors in how health and safety in construction needs to adapt and move forward sustainably to ensure that workers are protected in all facets of their occupational health so that they can all have long productive injury and illness free careers with long term wellbeing as a core objective.

Our internationally accredited (IOSH) occupational safety and health programmes at the UCD Centre for Safety and Health at Work are designed to support engineers wishing to expand into health and safety so that they can become competent multi and interdisciplinary PSDPs and PSCSs and leaders of health and safety within the construction and engineering sectors.

Our two-year part-time programmes are at Level 8 and Level 9 on the National Framework of Qualifications and over the last twenty-five years we have taught nearly ten thousand students to become health and safety focused professionals in their own disciplines. If you would like to know more about our centre and our programmes, please access via the following links:

Our Centre:

HDip Safety Health and Wellbeing at Work (Level 8):!W_HU_MENU.P_PUBLISH?p_tag=PROG&MAJR=SHS5

MSc Occupational Safety and Health (Level 9):!W_HU_MENU.P_PUBLISH?p_tag=PROG&MAJR=X061 

Author: Dr Conor Buggy, associate professor in occupational and environmental studies, UCD Centre for Safety and Health at Work