In 2016- Are we heading towards being a Nation of Builders?

Richard Watts is Construction Director at Osborne and reflects on the Olympics, Health and Safety and the importance of life.
“As we reach the end of the calendar year, we see the publication of the short-list for Sports Personality of the Year; dominated as you might expect by Olympians and Paralympian’s from the Rio Games.

This gives us the perfect opportunity to once again bask in the glory of Team GB’s most successful overseas games; finishing second only to the United States and China in the Olympic and Paralympic medal tables.

A fantastic achievement for a nation of our size and testament to the hard work and professional approach of our athletes and the support teams that sit behind them.

Reflecting on how well we have done, I thought back to 4 years ago and the period leading up to the start of the 2012 Olympics in London; specifically the construction of the venues, infrastructure and wider facilities. Another great success, finished ahead of schedule and, most importantly for me, with no loss of life; in stark contrast to other major construction projects worldwide (including Rio), with the 2022 Qatar World Cup still grabbing headlines for all the wrong reasons.

What really stands out for me is the level of acceptance that exists and that in some parts of the world a human life does not have the same value as here in the UK. A spokesman for the Indian Government was reported to have said “Considering the large size of our community, the number of deaths is quite normal.”  That may be statistically true, but doesn’t provide any sort of catalyst to improve conditions and safety standards.

Recently, another catastrophic event in China has resulted in 74 construction workers losing their lives when a working platform collapsed. Again we shake our heads, wonder what went wrong and start to imagine the terrible impact that it will have on their families and wider community affected.

I was also shocked to read about a New York contractor refusing to comply with a court order requiring it to pay for safety advertising following a fatal accident on one of its sites. The company was found guilty of manslaughter and was ordered to fund English and Spanish print and television advertisements for worker safety in exchange for a conditional discharge.

You would have thought that the consequences of ignoring the court order would be serious, but the judge imposed a $10,000 fine. Not much of a deterrent in my book.

So what am I trying to capture in these few words is this:
• We are a nation that has world class athletes and constructors.
• Life is important here and everyone matters, irrespective of role. Our STOP Think! cultural change programme is designed to engage everyone in the construction process and, by thinking differently and making better decisions, change lives for the better.
• We should be rightly proud of our achievements, but must continuously strive as a business to make the marginal gains in safety, health and well being – adopting the approach that made the GB Olympic team so successful.”