Today marks the World Day for Safety and Health at Work. It is an initiative of the International Labour Organisation which promotes the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally. It is a day on which employee health and safety should be front of mind.
Why is such a day necessary? In part, because the legal duties of care for their staff that are met by UK and European employers are not nearly as assured for many around the world.
But it certainly isn’t a day to pat ourselves on the back – because constant vigilance is always essential.
Why vigilance on employee health and safety is always vital
The experience of the early pandemic has already pierced the confidence of many UK employees. Employers must work to rebuild their confidence that they will be protected at work. Several surveys reinforced this in 2021. One was by UNISON which called out lack of action on workplace ventilation, COVID risk assessments, and mental health. The importance of rigorous monitoring and assessment of workplace risk became more apparent during COVID. Despite the fact they were were already a legal requirement for UK employers.
A mid-year survey by McKinsey revealed considerable worker trepidation at the prospect of returning to workplaces. There were impacts on mental health for those who had already returned to work after a period of remote working. It was particularly so for those with children at home or greater mental health needs. This was a US study, but with useful pointers for UK employers. They suggested that there were several keys to creating a psychologically safe workplace, in addition to more common physical safety considerations.
Enhancing occupational health for workers is a Government priority
Occupational Health support is also far from universally available to UK employees. Large corporates often provide OH via healthcare schemes and Employee Assistance Programmes. However, many millions of UK staff are not as well served. This is something the Government is keen to change. All employers may be encouraged to do more, based on the outcomes of the Health is Everyone’s Business consultation. However, even large employers with existing OH provision must integrate it more completely. They must all measure and monitor it better if it is to contribute fully. As well as connect it closely to key workflows such as absence and HR case management.
“Employers’ organizations and business associations play a key role in helping employers to fulfil their duties, by providing information and guidance materials on effective ways of engaging workers in OSH issues, including the provision of successful communication and efficient training.”
ILO April 2022
Proactive employee health and safety creates a business win-win scenario
Enhancing occupational health and safety unquestionably creates a win-win for both the workforce and the organisation. As the cost of accidents and absence decline, there is a consequent boost to productivity and the bottom line. As fewer workers leave or retire early due to health issues or inadequate adjustments by employers, the cost of churn and recruitment can reduce. Happier, healthier employees not only stay with organisations longer. They relate their satisfaction to friends, family, and potential future recruits. It all avoids the talent drain and reputational damage of the reverse case.
“Although employers primarily improve their OSH measures to meet their statutory requirements and fulfil their social and ethical responsibilities towards their workers, there is no denying that they reap an economic benefit from investing in the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases.”
Enhancing social dialogue towards a culture of safety and health – ILO report, April 2022
However well-developed your organisational health, wellbeing, and safety culture, it is a great day to reflect. Ask what more you could be doing. Redouble your commitment to create a healthy and safe working culture and environment for all your staff. Revisit your Occupational Safety and Health provisions. Commit to supporting your line managers to engage increasingly effectively around health needs, issues, and topics – and back them up with the right tools and information at hand for the task.
Empactis Employee Health Management System was designed to help organisations create and implement more connected models for employee health and safety management and measurement. Get in touch to learn more.