HR set to play a key role in health and safety shake-up

HR professionals, line managers and employees will play a major role in a
new health and safety system as part of the biggest Government shake-up in more
than 30 years.

Minister for work Des Browne has unveiled a radical new health and safety
strategy that will seek far greater involvement from employers and workers.

The Department of Work and Pensions and the Health and Safety Commission
(HSC) hopes to get more employees involved in developing policy and providing
best practice advice.

Bill Callaghan, chairman of the HSC, said people on the ground are
well-placed to develop advice and guidance.

"The involvement of staff is a key component of this," he said.
"Fewer people are in trade unions now and 60 per cent of workplaces have
no form of employee involvement or consultation.

"We want to look at ways of working with unions, employers and staff to
find better ways of offering advice," he explained.

The strategy is set to place more emphasis on health at work by helping
employers manage risks on factors such as stress, well-being and

Browne said the standard of accident prevention was very high, and the focus
should now be on improving workplace health and its effect on employability and

"Everybody has the right to leave work as healthy as they arrived. This
is particularly important to me as it touches my department’s work in helping
people back to work after illness and preventing it in the first place,"
Callaghan said.

The new strategy is also designed to bring more cohesion to the whole issue
of health and safety policy and enforcement by drawing together the work of the
Government, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities.

It also points to a much bigger role for occupational health practitioners,
who are desperately needed to help reduce the 33 million working days lost to
ill health during 2001/02.

The HSE is also to reform its communication systems and will look to work in
partnership to spread the message on issues such as stress.

By Ross Wigham

For a full analysis of the strategy, see the April issue of sister
publication Occupational Health.
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