CONIAC was set up at the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974 alongside a raft of other industry advisory committees. It is one of the remaining tri-partite cross-industry health and safety organisations. It has gone through a series of reconstitutions and is currently organised into 4 working groups and a steering group.
The working groups are: Managing risk well, Tackling ill health, Keeping Pace with Change, and Supporting Small Employers. The chairs of the groups along with TU representatives meet tri-annually as the Acting Together Steering Group sets out in the CONIAC workplan.
CONIAC’s core aim is to stimulate action aimed at securing better health and safety outcomes in the construction industry.
The current primary objectives that CONIAC is seeking to advance are found within the existing HSE construction sector plan – embedding CDM, tackling occupational ill health (lung disease, MSDs and stress &depression), and supporting small employers.
In recent years CONIAC has worked to ensure alignment with the HSE strategy ‘Helping Great Britain Work Well’ and to become more orientated towards delivery rather than consultation. The aim has been to move away from top-down HSE led activity to joint working with industry.
The strategy of increased working and collaboration with industry has resulted in closer working arrangements with the Construction Leadership Council (CLC). HSE and CLC have developed a terms of reference for jointly delivering better Health and Safety Outcomes in the construction industry and this forms part of the CLC Road to recovery Map.
By bringing the CLC H&S work group together with CONIAC it is planned to increase focus on health and safety outcomes to earlier in the CDM process in terms of design, planning and resulting in better business.
This broadly falls in to four categories –
- Research – For example the Keeping Pace with Change working group has undertaken a review of designer risk education to understand more about the skill base of new designers joining the industry. The Supporting Small Employer working group commissioned a wide ranging survey of attitudes towards health and safety from small construction businesses. This research is now being used to develop new interventions.
- New guidance – For example the Managing Risk Well working group drafted guidance on competence and responsibilities for fire safety in construction and ‘Safety steps’ guidance on working at height. The Tackling Ill Health working group advised on the development of a new Construction ‘Talking Toolkit’ for small employers to use to tackle stress.
- New interventions – For example the Supporting Small Employer working group introduced the ‘Client Buddy’ scheme where larger experienced clients could support newer, smaller client at complying with CDM.
- Developing increased collaboration and change management programmes across the industry resulting in targeted interventions. Resulting in permanent long term improvements throughout the construction sector.