Construction industry employers in Scotland are at their most confident since the beginning of the economic downturn, according to the latest Scottish Construction Monitor – a quarterly survey of the membership of the Scottish Building Federation (SBF).

The Scottish Construction Monitor asks SBF members how confident they feel about the prospects for their business over the next 12 months compared to the previous year. Following a nine-point drop in the final quarter of 2013, the latest survey shows industry confidence has rebounded to plus 20 – its highest rating since the Construction Monitor began in 2008.

The survey also asked construction employers a series of questions about occupational health. It found that only a minority of companies use an external supplier of occupational health services or employ an occupational health adviser. A substantial number of employers carry out workplace health risk assessments and offer employee toolbox talks on workplace health topics such as noise, hand/arm vibration and skin and respiratory conditions.

At the same time, only a minority of companies said they carry out baseline health checks of new apprentices entering the industry. A majority of respondents also said they would welcome additional support and advice on occupational health issues.

The findings are published as the SBF enters a new partnership with non-profit organisation Constructing Better Health, an industry-wide occupational health management scheme that aims to promote health and wellbeing within the industry's workforce throughout the UK.

SBF managing director Vaughan Hart said: "This is now the third consecutive quarter that the industry's confidence has been in positive territory, and a new record high since we began the Scottish Construction Monitor in 2008. This is the first time that the percentage of companies more confident about the future outlook for their business compared to the last year has risen above the 50% mark.

"At the same time, it is important to keep these results in perspective. Recovery across the different sectors of the industry remains mixed. While there has been strong growth in infrastructure and private commercial activity, housebuilding remains flat. The challenge now must be to ensure the recovery is sustainable in the longer term. Industry confidence needs to reach a point where companies have the confidence to invest long-term in rebuilding skills and capacity. I am not convinced we have reached that point yet."

Constructing Better Health chief executive Michelle Aldous added: "This survey offers an interesting insight into occupational health practices in the Scottish construction industry. A lot of excellent work has been done in recent years to raise the profile of workplace health and wellbeing within the sector in Scotland. But, as the results show, there are clearly opportunities for an even more proactive approach through the wider use of baseline health checks of new apprentices entering the industry.

"The wider use of these checks would help us to monitor the health and wellbeing of the industry's future workforce throughout their working lives. It would provide crucial data to enable the industry to take the targeted measures necessary to minimise workers' exposure to serious long-term health risks. At the same time, it would help ensure that those that do suffer from such conditions receive the care and support they need."