Dr Conor Buggy, associate professor in occupational and environmental studies and director of the UCD Centre for Safety and Health at Work, writes that with the global emergency of the Covid-19 pandemic officially declared over by the World Health Organisation in May 2023, now is the time to re-evaluate the lessons we all learnt in managing occupational safety and health for workers. 

The pandemic has shown in particular the vulnerabilities of construction workers and how the sector was ill-prepared to manage a highly infectious and transmissible disease in close quarter and physically demanding working environments.

James Joyce Library.

Leadership and adaptability of the construction sector

The pandemic also demonstrated the leadership and adaptability of the construction sector, with guidance and protocols developed to bring construction workers back on sites as lockdowns ended, resumed and ended over the course of eighteen months.

As we reflect on how construction site health and safety teams adapted/developed procedures to ensure workers could remain healthy and safe on site we need to use those lessons moving forward in how we manage site safety.

These health and safety teams were effective and adaptable because they were experienced and had appropriate occupational safety and health education and training behind them.

UCD O'Brien Centre for Science.

Huge lessons in health and safety have been learnt, 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 among construction workers.  

It is imperative that we do not lose these lessons of the past three years, and the construction sector must 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.

Many good new practices have emerged

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.

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 introductory programme is our Level 7 Certificate in Safety and Health at Work and is a blended online programme with online e-lectures and evening tutorials and four days on campus between September and April. This is a great programme for busy people beginning their OSH journey and adding it to their range of skills and expertise.

Our two-year part-time programmes are at Level 8 and Level 9 on the National Framework of Qualifications and over the last 25 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

Certificate in Safety and Health at Work (Level 7)

HDip Safety Health and Wellbeing at Work (Level 8) 

MSc Occupational Safety and Health (Level 9)