The secret factors behind the safety successes during construction of the London 2012 Olympic Park have been revealed in a new study.

Researchers identified 13 distinct characteristics in relationships between clients, contractors, designers, workers and regulators during Olympic Delivery Authority’s Big Build which created the ‘pre-conditions’ for ground breaking safety performance.

The team from Loughborough University took part in close out meetings for key venues and infrastructure projects on the Olympic Park and interviewed influential individuals. In making recommendations to help others replicate the success of the London 2012, they were able to pinpoint what made the relationships so successful, as well the importance of leadership and worker engagement.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which funded the research, believes construction sites of all sizes could adopt elements of the approach with similar results.

Alistair Gibb, Royal Academy of Engineering Professor at Loughborough University, said:  “Successful safety management relies on systems and people working together in tandem – neither is sufficient on its own and they rely on each other to achieve the best outcomes.”

 Lead researcher Helen Bolt said:  “The most important thing we discovered in this research was the value of the relationships between individuals and organisations.  Of all the characteristics of the relationships in evidence during Big Build, the most critical were respect and clarity – they underpin everything, are not costly or difficult to achieve and can have a significant impact on safety culture and standards.”

 HSE Board member and executive director for Laing O’Rourke, Howard Shiplee, was the Director of Construction for the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), and said:  “Though London 2012 was a unique experience for everyone involved, fundamentally it was no different from other construction projects and there is no reason that what worked during the Olympic Park build cannot work elsewhere.  Getting the right culture and relationships in place early pays dividends not just for health and safety but for so many of the benchmarks for success, like delivering the project on time and within budget with high productivity and sustainability.  This doesn’t occur accidentally, providing clarity from the outset is essential and measures need to continue through all phases, not just construction but into fit-out. As we have all seen though, the results can be inspirational – a beacon to the rest of the world.”

Despite construction of the London 2012 Olympic Park being one of the largest building projects in Europe, it was completed on time, within budget and set a new benchmark for health and safety.

The accident frequency rate on site was 0.16 per 100,000 hours worked – less than the building industry average of 0.55, and less than the all industry average of 0.21.  There were no work-related fatalities on the whole London 2012 construction programme.

Over and above the provisions for safety management, there was an ODA-appointed occupational service provider operating on site. This support, which included health checks, health surveillance and health promotion, was available for all workers and all suppliers had to ensure their personnel actively participated.

The report, Pre-conditioning for success: Characteristics and factors ensuring a safe build for the Olympic Park, was launched at Constructing Excellence National Convention in London.