Founded in 1994, the Construction Workers Health Trust is a registered charity whose principal activity is the provision of medical examinations to building workers on site or at their place of employment.
The Construction Workers Health Trust (CWHT) provides an on-site health-screening service to construction workers. The service is funded through a voluntary weekly contribution of €1.50 made by workers through their pension scheme payment or by their employers. For this contribution, they will receive a biennial comprehensive 40-minute health screen from a nurse that covers blood pressure; height, weight and body mass index (BMI); cholesterol; lung function; diabetes; and any other issue that the worker chooses to raise. Generally, a nurse can screen 10 to 14 workers per day.
CWHT health screening process
On average, CWHT screens 5,000 workers per annum. While, for the most part, the Irish workforce is young and healthy, issues do arise. Common problems are high cholesterol and hidden diabetes. Also, workers engaged in occupations where dust is prevalent often can have impaired lung function.
The CWHT engages a professional service provider HealthWatch Irl Ltd to deliver the on-site service. The main reason for this is that there are onerous legal and ethical requirements involved in the provision of health screening, including GDPR, training of personnel and calibration of diagnostic instruments, which a professional provider is best set up to deliver.
Brian Daly, CEO, CWHT, says that the service the Trust provides is an essential element in any health and safety manager’s toolkit, enabling them to focus on the health needs of workers in their care.
“Our nurses make life-saving and changing interventions in many workers’ lives without them having to compromise any of their privacy,” Brian Daly explains. “Over the years since 1994, our health screening service has identified serious issues in many workers’ health, and we have facilitated them privately to make important changes that may have saved and improved the quality of their lives.”
CWHT screening results
Brian Daly explains that the results are only provided directly to workers at the end of the screening, with further assistance provided for the worker if required.
“At the end of the screening, all test results are given to the worker on the spot, except where there is an adverse result that requires follow up by a CWHT doctor. If, for example, a worker has high blood pressure, immediate action may be required. However, for most other adverse results, a letter of referral to the worker’s general practitioner is sent to the individual within a week.”
As all test results are covered by GDPR, no personal information is disclosed to the employer. On large sites where the number of workers exceeds 200, CWHT sometimes gives the employer a statistical analysis of the general health of the workforce, but no individuals are identified.
“Our nurses make life-saving and changing interventions in many workers’ lives without them having to compromise any of their privacy.” – Brian Daly, CEO, CWHT.
CWHT screening cost
The cost to an employee is €1.50 per week, which many workers pay along with their pension contributions. This enables the Trust to visit sites nationwide in order to offer screening in the workplace. However, workers who are not members of the industry pension scheme or who do not pay the contribution can still get screened if time allows while the nurses are on site.
The employer’s only cost associated with CWHT health screening is the hidden cost of allowing workers one hour off with pay to visit the nurse. Employers are encouraged to take up the on-site screening to ensure that despite appearing to be outwardly healthy, a worker may be harbouring any number of hidden symptoms of underlying poor health.
The screening can also assist health and safety managers in their roles as they can receive an anonymised overview report on the numbers screened, which can be used for end of year reports.
Talking about the impact of Covid-19, Brian Daly explains that since early 2020, while much of the on-site health and safety focus has been on tackling Covid-19, CWHT has continued to provide health screening services on sites across the country when the sector has been open.
“The CWHT, like the construction sector, was quick to act and make its service Covid-19-safe for workers and nurses. Covid-19 required the Trust to suspend operations while the industry was closed. But when it reopened, our precautions included hand-washing and wearing facemasks. All of our nurses are vaccinated, and they are subject to the same requirements as set down for workers on sites.”
The Trust has completed assignments on sites such as Intel in Leixlip, Designer Group in Kildare and Kiernan Steel in Longford. Many employers appreciate the hidden benefits of running not only a safe site but also a healthy site, and the screening programme becomes an essential part of their health and safety strategy.
Setting up a CWHT health screening plan
Brian Daly says that registering with the CWHT is very straightforward.
“Any contractor who wishes to become a contributor to the Trust can do so by visiting our website www.cwht.ie and registering their workforce. There is no need to provide the names of workers; we simply require contractors to indicate the number on their payroll and pay the annual fee of €75 per worker per annum in advance. After this, the employer can call us to arrange a health screening programme on a two-year rotation.
“Employers can also decide to pay the entire contribution themselves or apportion some to the worker on say a 50-50 arrangement. If employers are operating the industry pension scheme the Construction Workers’ Pension Scheme (CWPS), they can ask the scheme to include Health Trust and Benevolent Fund contributions along with the pension deduction,” Brian Daly concludes.
Case histories – Diabetes
A significant number of workers are found to be pre-diabetic each year. Some are later diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. This requires lifelong treatment but can be managed if caught early.
Undiagnosed diabetes can have severe consequences in later life. Unfortunately, no outward symptoms are experienced, and it is only by having a biennial test that the condition can be picked up.
Case histories – High blood pressure
During a Construction Workers Health Trust on-site health screening in Cork, a 44-year-old scaffolder was found to have very high blood pressure and was given immediate treatment. Although the man did not feel sick, he needed an ambulance and was transferred to the nearest accident and emergency department.
The worker in question was successfully treated and returned to work the following week, albeit with strict changes to his lifestyle.