23 million working days are lost each year because of ill health, costing individuals, employers and the state around £9 billion a year. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a five-year strategy called ‘Helping Great Britain Work Well’ and we used this opportunity to ask our Health & Safety team on how best to tackle ill health.
1. Educate your staff: Make sure you make your employees aware of any potential hazards and risks that could lead to ill health.
It’s easy to see a safety issue, if there’s a handrail missing, someone can fall. It’s a hazard which is ‘here and now’. However, with a lot of ill health there’s a latency which makes it hard to understand the hazard.
Take Asbestos, this is now a known hazard but for many years no-one appreciated how harmful it was. This is because it took years for asbestosis and mesothelioma to be identified and then took time for the diseases to be linked with asbestos exposure. The ill health wasn’t ‘here and now’ and even when we knew about the hazard of asbestosis, because the effects of exposure were not seen immediately, it took a long time before workers understood the hazard and therefore the risk presented.
2. Implement control measures. Sometimes, these are not easy to implement and can be expensive. This is where you will have to prioritise risks you can control first.
3. Conduct a Health & Safety inspection and audit. You need to ensure that those control measures are implemented and effective. A Health & Safety inspection and audit will help to understand the degree of compliance. Audits help to understand how robust your management systems are, so you understand what happens when you aren’t there.
4. Your leadership team needs to reflect that ‘Health & Safety is important to you as a business’. Your and your managers’ behaviour will influence how serious Health & Safety is taken. If it is a priority from the top, then front line staff will soon follow.
5. Drive change in your organisation. Once all of the above is in place you will potentially see that the culture of a team or the organisation as a whole changes. ‘Culture drives expectations and beliefs; expectations and beliefs drive behaviour; behaviour drives habits; and habits create the future. It all starts with culture’.
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