April 28th 2021
This year’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work campaign focuses on strategies to strengthen national occupational safety and health (OSH) systems to build resilience, to be able to face crises now and in the future, drawing on lessons learned and experiences from the world of work.
There can be few people whose approach to health hasn’t changed immeasurably over the past year – the onset of Coronavirus and the spread of the disease Covid-19 has influenced pretty much every person on the planet in some way or other.
Traditionally, much of what we consider health and safety has been about removing accidents from the workplace and, whilst that in itself keeps us healthy, it is really only about safety and not health; in the UK, occupational diseases kill far more people than workplace accidents in any given year but, as ill-health tends to arise from long term exposure (sometimes only showing long after someone leaves a job), the outcomes are less obvious and often have a much lower profile. Outside of the pandemic, businesses face several long-term health risks that need to be managed.
What can organisations do to tackle the problem?
Everyone has a role to play in reducing risks associated with occupational ill-health.
Employees need to cooperate with their managers so that safety standards can be maintained.
- Follow your training and work as instructed, wear PPE correctly, etc.
- Report faults and concerns promptly so that things can be investigated.
- Be aware of and self-check for signs of ill health relating to your work, report issues promptly.
Managers need to identify the hazards in the workplace that require managing – and identify how, by making reasonable changes to the workplace and work processes, they can further reduce risk.
- Seek out safer alternatives when buying new tools, plant, equipment, substances, etc. or when developing work procedures.
- Educate employees about the long-term risks associated with not following their training.
- Conduct health surveillance (where necessary) and identify/react to potential health issues and resolve them in an appropriate timescale.
What are the benefits?
For the individual, the ability to earn is lost when ill-health strikes, so avoiding workplace ill-health allows us all to continue providing for our families and to enjoy the time outside of work (and into retirement) without a reduced quality or length of life.
For the company, asides from the moral and legal obligations to manage health and safety, a pro-active workforce that is aware of issues and active in avoiding/reporting them will have fewer issues/absenteeism, meaning they are there to serve valued customers and the business is not saddled with avoidable costs, disruption and a reduction in the quality of service available.
Remember – in many cases where workers contract an occupational disease, by the time it has been identified, it is also too late to provide a cure.
Find out more information about World Day for Safety and Health at Work via the International Labour Organisation’s website.