Improving health and well-being in construction

30 July 2019

Improving health and well-being in constructionIn our latest edition of Building Sight, we look at the increasing focus on wellbeing from an industry perspective such as how it could impact on the built environments we create, how technology is improving occupational health and the risk of psychological injury due to stress.



Smart cities could mean better and healthier lives in emerging economies — both for inhabitants and the workers who build them.

Over the last decade, our understanding of what makes a “smart city” has shifted. The application of smart city ideas in emerging economies offers huge opportunities to improve the lives of people living and working in those cities.

Beyond the basic needs of housing, social infrastructure, and utilities, smart cities could bring easier access to sanitation, transportation, public services, and information.

They also lead to reduced crime levels, cleaner air, and the opportunity to live healthier lifestyles.


Awareness of asbestos-related risks is growing in many countries, but regulation alone may not be enough to tackle the problem. For a material known to cause fatal illness, international trade in asbestos is surprisingly brisk.

The International Labour Organization estimates that 100,000 people die annually from a disease relating to workplace exposure to the naturally occurring fibrous mineral — yet, it is still a popular building material.


Exposure to ultra violet (UV) radiation at work is causing skin cancer. And claims are on the increase.

Skin cancer caused by UV radiation is the fastest-growing occupational malignancy, according to occupational skin disease specialist Professor Swen Malte John from the University of Osnabrück.


The world of nanoparticles carries potential for huge advances in the strength and performance of construction materials.

Nanoparticles will transform construction — but we need more research on their potential health risks.


The prevalence and impact of poor mental health in construction has fortunately seen greater industry discourse in recent years.

However, a lot more can still be done to address the problem and avoid the tragic consequences of high stress levels, which can include loss of life.


Progressive companies are looking for buildings that improve their employees’ health and well-being. Progressive contractors are looking to build them.

A 2018 report by the World Green Building Council looked at 11 office buildings around the world to assess whether green features aimed at delivering health and well-being benefits actually worked.

The report found that occupants had fewer days off and felt happier and more productive.

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The drive toward digitalization and automation isn’t just about increasing productivity. It’s also about attracting the next, tech-savvy generation to the industry by making construction sites better places to work.

Already, new technologies are demonstrating the benefits that digital construction could bring to the workforce, whether through the use of robotics, wearable tech, virtual reality (VR), or 3D design.


Construction companies are waking up to the fact that more diverse teams lead to better results. In some cases, clients are demanding diversity. For instance, in the US, federal agencies are targeted to award 5% of their prime contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses.

For others, diversity is just good business sense. Research from McKinsey in 2017 found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability.

In this article three women draw on their industry experiences.




  • Richard GurneyRichard Gurney

    Richard is the Global Head of the Construction Practice at Marsh JLT Specialty.

    Richard joined Marsh in April 2019 following the acquisition of JLT where he had worked since 2002. Formerly Global Head of Construction at JLT Specialty and also Head of Claims, Richard has worked in the London insurance market for 29 years. He accumulated extensive experience working with many of the group’s major Construction clients and on some of the world’s largest projects. 

    Past responsibilities also include being a non-executive director on the board of JLT India and overall responsibility for the wholly owned JLT claims consultancy, Echelon.

    If you would like to talk about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact Richard Gurney, Global head of construction on +44 (0)203 394 0387.

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