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Improving Safety Culture at the London Olympic Park

Safety Culture at the 2012 London Olympics

The Challenge

Preparations for hosting the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games involved large scale construction programmes to deliver new venues and fit-out existing buildings and infrastructure.

The public body responsible for developing and building the new venues and infrastructure was the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA).

From the outset ODA was committed to being an exemplar in health, safety and environmental management throughout the planning, design and construction operation. They committed to ensuring that London 2012 would be the 'safest and healthiest build on record'.

ODA established very clear expectations that the health and safety of workers was a priority and set out to provide a safe working environment. ODA engaged and worked with contractors on health and safety issues, both directly and through their appointed delivery partner, to ensure that contractors also made this a priority.

This included requirements relevant to leadership and worker engagement. Each contractor was required to have a behavioural safety management system in place, and to adopt a 'no blame' culture.

The Solution

The ODA and its delivery partner demonstrated their commitment to health and safety by commissioning and then mandating the use of HSE's Safety Climate Tool (SCT) across companies working on the Park.

SCT is a survey tool that captures workers', supervisors' and managers' perceptions of health and safety issues, providing an insight into the safety culture within an organisation.

Participants indicate the extent to which they agree or disagree with a series of statements.

The results of these surveys give a clear indication of safety culture within an organisation, highlighting where risks may be present.

Companies were required to complete SCT at various intervals whilst working on the Park and resulted in almost 10,000 responses across 20 companies between 2008 and 2011.

The Outcome

Results from SCT gave ODA a tangible measure of the safety culture on the Olympic Park, and through discussion with a sample of workers, supervisors and managers, they were able to identify a wealth of good practice that had been implemented on site in relation to the eight factors of SCT.

The Olympic build achieved an accident frequency rate on-site of just 0.16 per 100,000 hours worked - far less than the building industry average of 0.55, and less than the all-industry average of 0.21.

Significantly there were no work-related fatalities on the whole London 2012 construction programme: the only modern Olympic Games to achieve this.

The London 2012 Games has demonstrated that it is possible and feasible to develop high standards of health and safety, and a culture that supports this aspiration, within the construction sector.

Many of the areas of good practice are frequently cited as being too complex to apply to the construction sector. This research provides evidence that it is possible, through engagement, worker involvement and organisational commitment to develop a strong safety culture.

'The climate surveys were invaluable to us. Too much time is spent discussing both culture and leading indicators in vague and imprecise ways - prejudice not evidence. The data we obtained from each project team and across the programme's workforce meant that we could take specific initiatives to develop the safety culture, and we knew that attitudes and perceptions on-site were a wonderful pain-free surrogate for reacting after accidents had occurred. The data and its analysis told us where we were going and identified opportunities for improvement. '
Lawrence Waterman, Head of Health and Safety, Olympic Delivery Authority


This case study is based on HSE's Research Report 942 'Safety culture on the Olympic Park'.

The 2012 Olympics Learning Legacy website contains a wealth of materials that shares the knowledge and the lessons learned from the construction of the Olympic Park to help raise the bar within construction and event sectors, and act as a showcase for UK plc.

Visit the learning legacy website to access these resources.

Read more in" href=""> a series of short case studies that demonstrate some of the new and practical solutions used to manage health, safety and welfare during the London 2012 construction project.

To use the Safety Climate Tool, or to view a demo visit our dedicated pages on the HSE Books website.

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