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Olympic fever

There is no doubt that Britain is starting to feel the first bursts of Olympic fever.

You can't watch television, listen to the radio or open newspaper without alighting on a related story. Despite the fact that we have only just passed the 100 days to go marker post, I saw signs on the motorway this week reminding me to plan my journey to the Games so that I could arrive on time. If only I had tickets!

Nonetheless it's clear that it is going to be a very special summer in London, and no doubt right across Britain.

But for those of us with a close interest in health and safety, this feels much more like the marathon runners starting their final lap than Usain Bolt rocketing out of the blocks in the 100 metres final.

HSE started work with the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) in 2007, with the aim of making the building of the London 2012 venues one of the safest construction projects ever. Given the scale of the work - arguably one of the biggest construction projects in Europe - this was a challenge worthy of any Olympian.

And the ODA has risen to the challenge. Not only were there no work related fatalities during the 'big build' phase of construction, but the project as a whole has shown that high standards of health and safety can make a positive contribution to the delivery of an extremely demanding project. In a project which has clocked up more than 80 million working hours, figures from the ODA show fewer than 130 reportable incidents. By any measure this is gold standard performance.

I had my own burst of Olympic fever this week when I took part in the making of a video to mark this extraordinary legacy achievement. Why is this part of the legacy? Because the practical lessons learned from the construction phase of London 2012 are already being applied to companies of all sizes from a wide-range of industries - touching as they do on such cross cutting issues as safety leadership, involving the workforce and managing work at height. When I visited the Rosyth shipyard recently they told me how they were seeking to follow the exemplary approach taken on the Olympic Park.

Of all the things that have been written and said about London 2012, there's one that stays with me, a comment from Lawrence Waterman, the head of health and safety at the Olympic Delivery Authority: "Managing health and safety well is not a cost. It's an investment."

When we think about the legacy of the Olympics, it will be great if we can say that as well as the social and sporting legacy, it also heralded a change in attitudes to health and safety.

2016-04-13