Scotland business

Call for health checks for construction apprentices

Construction worker Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption CBH Scotland estimates that the current cost of occupational ill health in the Scottish construction industry is £66m per year

Tackling work-related ill health among construction apprentices could save the Scottish economy more than £30m over the next decade, new figures suggest.

Constructing Better Health Scotland (CBH Scotland) is calling for baseline health checks for all apprentices entering the industry.

The organisation, established last month, wants to improve occupational health management in the sector.

It said baseline checks were easy and cost-effective to complete.

CBH Scotland highlighted a recent survey which said that only 27% of Scottish Building Federation members who employ apprentices provide them with the checks when they join the company.

It said this meant many new recruits at risk or those suffering from long-term health problems would go undetected and would not receive the occupational health support they needed.

The organisation estimates that the current cost of occupational ill health in the Scottish construction industry is £66m per year or £386 for every worker employed in the industry.

CBH chief executive Michelle Aldous said: "CBH Scotland has been established to work with employers to improve the long-term health and wellbeing of those working in the Scottish construction industry.

"Our research shows that proactively managing the occupational health of new building apprentices through systematic baseline health checks could save the Scottish economy more than £30 million by 2024."

She added: "These checks are easy and cost-effective to complete and will enable us to monitor and manage the occupational health of the Scottish construction workforce over time.

"At the same time, a more proactive approach to occupational health management will save industry employers and the wider economy significant sums of money in the longer term."

The campaign is being organised in conjunction with the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives and the Scottish Building Federation.

Apprentice figures

New figures from the Scottish Building Apprenticeship and Training Council (SBATC), show that the number of construction apprentices registered in Scotland last year increased by 11% compared with 2012.

In total, 149 more apprentices were registered in 2013 than during the previous year, taking the total number to 1,448.

This follows five consecutive years of declining numbers from a peak of 2,758 construction apprentices registered in Scotland in 2007.

CBH Scotland estimates that, assuming an annual 4% increase in apprenticeship registrations over the next decade, comprehensive baseline health checks could benefit more than 14,000 additional apprentices over that period, saving as much as £30m in work-related ill health costs by 2024.

Constructing Better Health was founded in 2006 and established CBH Scotland in April.

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