Life and work before COVID seem like a lifetime ago right now. Unfortunately, for construction, health issues have been a problem that we’ve faced for a number of years. And it’s quite a significant problem for construction. Here comes a shocking statistic around that.
For every one safety fatality that we have, there are 100 fatalities that are related to a health issue. Many of these things are to do with respiratory issues. So people that have been exposed to certain dusts and fumes and even, asbestos is something that people are more commonly aware of.
So we see a number of people whose health and lives are significantly impacted. There are also about 80,000 people each year that suffer from some sort of work-related health issue. These might be things like muscular-skeletal disorders or damage to their hearing or working with vibration, it’s impacted on their hands.
It is a shocking thing for the industry to deal with but a lot of workers end up having to leave the industry much younger than they would have done and retire much earlier.
It significantly impacts their quality of life. So we’ve got a big challenge in front of us to try and address that.
The good thing I suppose about a health risk is we know what causes all of these problems. We know why the reasons are that we have to do some stuff about it. So it doesn’t mean that things are always going to be that way. It’s just making sure that we put the right focus and attention on it now to prevent these people from getting these health issues, some years down the line.
I suppose we’ve done some great stuff with safety in the construction industry over the last 20 years. And, and health is just a little bit of a step behind. So we’re just trying to work on that and build it up. So it’s to a similar kind of spaces where safety is at the moment.
Why bother paying any attention to Jennie Armstrong?
Jennie is actually a registered nurse who started her career in emergency care. She ended up moving into construction around 2010 and worked on the London 2012 development. Her role there was as a site-based nurse and Jennie was there to help the construction workers when things had gone wrong, or to give them advice around health and well being.
Whilst she was there, Jennie recognised that prevention is so much better than cure. And it’s something that’s embedded into us as nurses that if we can prevent things rather than having to treat them at the end it is much better.
So there the team worked with some really amazing occupational hygienists, who inspired Jennie to think that there’s more that we can be doing around health. So she retrained as an occupational hygienist. And since then, she has also done some qualifications around safety.
I have a holistic approach, but most recently, I also trained to be a yoga teacher, which was a bit more about the passion for mine, rather than necessarily about what I can do in my company. But I do think probably in the future, there’ll be more kind of yoga-inspired initiatives within the construction industry. I’d like to see that happen at some point.