Occupational health

News from the Collaborating Centres for Occupational Health

Development of a Construction toolbox for a multidisciplinary risk assessment and management at the workplace

Dave Zalk (IOHA envoy) (zalk1@llnl.gov)
Henri Heussen (IOHA envoy) (henri.heussen@arbounie.nl)

The development of a construction toolbox, like any WHO preventive approach, is requested by the WHO Global Plan of Action for Workers' Health (GPA) in the objective 2 which requests to protect and promote health at the workplace. More particularly the GPA mentions the assessment and management of health risks at the workplace should be improved by defining essential interventions for prevention and control of mechanical, physical, chemical, biological and psychosocial risks in the working environment. Such measures include also integrated management of chemicals at the workplace, elimination of second-hand tobacco smoke from all indoor workplaces, improved occupational safety, and health-impact assessment of new technologies, work processes and products at the design stage. The development of a toolbox, a collection of multidisciplinary toolkit and solutions approaches, contributes to the work on creating practical tools for assessment and management of occupational risks, recommending minimum requirements for health protection at the workplace, providing guidance on development of healthy workplaces, and on promoting health at the workplace.

The aim is to develop a model for a multidisciplinary risk management toolbox for the construction industry. A four-tiered control banding method integrating basic protection methods, best practices, related toolkits, and expert advice within project-based risk matrix. Included in the toolbox approach is a web-based internet tool designed for the construction industry: http://www.stoffenmanagerbouwnijverheid.nl (Dutch only) for assessing chemical exposure and identifying controls.

The versatility of control banding has been firmly established in research literature and regulation as a multidisciplinary method that can address numerous high-risk sectors utilizing a singular approach. The control banding principles and approaches have been included in standards and legislation in a range of countries, such as Brazil, Chile, China, EU, Germany, Korea, India, Portugal, The Netherlands, Ukraine, UK, USA, and Vietnam.

The construction toolbox uniquely integrates chemical, physical, ergonomic, and safety risk factors on a task-by-task basis as well as using a multidisciplinary risk matrix for a construction project as a whole. Future steps will be developed to offer customized advice to prevent exposure to hazardous substances and prevent injury and illness in the construction industry. Uniting an international team of experts on this project provided a major accomplishment of incorporating numerous regulatory standards and legislation into a singular process within a single industry. High influence can be found in the scope of the construction industry as truly international in practice and a universally recognized high-risk sector with unacceptably high injury and illness rates.

The one major impact in the development of this toolbox concept was the creation of a method for uniting occupational safety, health, and hygiene disciplinary expertise within a singular, simplified risk management approach.

  • Link to Construction Toolbox article
    Zalk et al. (2011). Review of Qualitative Approaches for the Construction Industry: Designing a Risk Management Toolbox. Saf Health Work 2(2):105-21