Leading the world on workplace health

Health and safety has for too long concentrated on eliminating heavy
industrial injuries and ignored the softer, hidden problems endured by the
masses, such as stress and musculoskeletal damage.

That’s why the Government’s latest strategy on workplace health and safety
to 2010 and beyond must be welcomed as a brave refocus on managing risks for
everyone, no matter what job they do.

The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) now recognises that the world of work
is changing dramatically, and with it, the hazards. In future, it will target
resources on areas of greatest need, and this means occupational health taking
centre stage by helping people back to work after illness and preventing them
getting ill in the first place.

The UK’s record in cutting accidents is impressive but poor management of
ill health arising from work causes untold suffering and costs the economy
millions. It is these risks that employers are being urged to address to start
reducing the 33 million days lost to ill health each year. It is in everyone’s
interests to do so.

This is a strategy all about finite resources and hard choices, with the HSC
having the confidence to withdraw from areas that are well controlled and
prioritising effort where it can have the greatest impact.

Thankfully, employers should not expect to see new legislation as the first
response to these issues. Partnership with employers and workforces is likely
to be the way forward. A statement on worker involvement will be forthcoming
later this month.

Calling on all sexes

Progress on equality for women is staggeringly slow, and yet we have more
female HR professionals than male, albeit not in always in the top jobs.

The EOC quite rightly wants swifter action on fairer handling of pregnancy
and maternity in the workplace and it is throwing out the gauntlet for
employers to act now. This is not a radical demand; it is about equality and
honouring existing legislation, nothing more or less. Whatever your gender,
everyone working in HR should feel a moral obligation to make this happen this
year.

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