Meet the challenges of the new millennium

25 years of HSE sees workplace deaths down – but there’s still much to do

We are living in a very different world to that which existed when the
Health and Safety at Work Act first came into being, said HSC Commissioner
Joyce Edmond-Smith, the first person to address the conference.

She pointed to the changing patterns of work which mean the service sector
now represents 70 per cent of all jobs, the majority of them in firms employing
less than 50 people.

A multi-disciplinary approach, making occupational health support available
for small firms – multiple jobholders, agency workers, home workers and people
working away from base – is essential, she said.

Although much has been achieved in the quarter-century that the HSE has been
in existence, with the number of workplace deaths now a quarter of what it was
then, there is much to be done to meet the challenges of the next millennium.

She spoke about the new health challenges that occupational health
professionals were faced with: an older workforce, workers coping with chronic
conditions, pregnant and nursing mothers in the workplace and the new
uncertainties posed by new technology.

The old health challenges still persist, she added. In all, 2 million people
in Britain have a health problem which they believe is caused by work.

"If we are to meet these challenges we must adapt, we must take risks
and try new approaches and we must give a new impetus to our activities,"
she said.

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