Construction Safety under the spotlight – at the Games


In normal times, building safety is a specific sub-sector of the health & safety scene, though a fairly high profile one due to its relatively high incidence of accidents (albeit less than in agriculture or waste disposal).

But when there are big showpiece public events, the sector is thrust into the spotlight in a number of ways, and the regulatory bodies go into overdrive in their desire to ensure that the activities do not suffer any accidents or injuries.

Clearly the largest of these, probably in most of our lifetimes, was the 2012 London Olympic Games. These were a stunning success in many ways, and they were outstandingly safe and well-delivered. The challenge now passes to the Commonwealth Games, Glasgow 2014, to match them.

There is a scale difference – 1 million tickets are on sale compared to 10 million – but Glasgow’s delivery bodies are equally determined to ensure that nothing goes wrong, especially with the permanent and temporary structures that will hold the crowds.

Temporary – but Safe

A lot of focus has gone onto Temporary Demountable Structures (TDS). These are not only confined to seating areas but also include lighting, video screens, stages and whole buildings. The Glasgow 2014 delivery body is the client and as such is ultimately responsible for the safe erection and dismantling of these, but clearly the principal contractors and design & build specialists are also duty holders. (And when the structures are actually in action, the Local Authority is responsible for the safety of their use).

HSE says it consulted at an early stage with Glasgow 2014 to make its expectations clear; and it has briefed its inspectors with an Intervention Plan to explain what to be looking out for, especially in relation to what is called  “targeted inspection of high-risk activities to ensure that standards are being met”. As soon as the Games starts, HSE steps back and takes a watching brief, letting the Local Authority take control – unless an accident or emergency occurs.

Volunteer Cover?

If you were a paid worker at the Games, or a subcontracted worker, you would of course be covered by safety legislation. However, the law is actually silent on the position of volunteers. We all remember the legion of purple-clad helpers who were so essential in making London a success, and a smaller but no doubt equally enthusiastic band will be in action in Glasgow, travelling there from around the country. There is a general duty on the part of the organisers to ensure their safety, despite the absence of specific legislation clauses. And for their part, the volunteers are not constrained by any health and safety law except in a very general sense.

By a broader definition, spectators are also (paying) volunteers – and they are covered by no particular health and safety-related welfare requirements like shelter from bad weather or food, drink and toilet provisions – so a paid worker has arguably better cover than they do. (There are of course public safety and fire regulations in place).


We heard a lot about the desire to create lasting benefits from London 2012, and Glasgow 2014 will also seek to maximise the ongoing benefits, both at a macro-economic level for society in terms of regeneration in the area, and more specifically to the construction sector where it is hoped that lessons will be learned and best practices shared by the industry as a whole. Health and safety consultants would certainly say, Amen to that.