Employees are an organisation’s most important asset but ensuring their health and safety can be a legislative minefield without access to the right information and experience.
Things also became potentially more difficult last October when the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stopped offering guidance to become an enforcement agency intent on prosecuting those who breach any part of the healthy and safety at work act (1974).
And penalties are steep for those in breach of the law – individuals could face fines of up to £20,000 or two years in prison.
Yet, for a faction of the cost of a fine, there are a range of effective measures to not only safeguard the workforce but also ensure legal compliance.
Such measures include:
- health surveillance for employees exposed to risks such as excessive noise, hand arm vibration, solvents, fumes, asbestos etc
- risk assessments to identify workplace hazards, employees at risk and control measures needed
- specialist health & safety courses eg manual handling, identifying specific hazards, IOSH managing and working safely courses, to help bring staff up to recognised levels and keep them there, despite changes in health & safety legislation
- providing every UK employee with access to a trainer first aider in the workplace, whether they work there or are visiting the premises.
Statistics show that the main causes of workplace absenteeism are musculosketal disorders and mental health issues – costing employers thousands of pounds in
lost productivity – yet early intervention by a physiotherapist or counsellor could facilitate a speedier return to work, and the cost would be much less than having the employee off work for a period of time.
Research has also shown that wellbeing and health promotion programmes increase employee satisfaction and increase productivity, reduce sickness and lower staff turnover (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2008).
Employees could benefit from advice and information on quitting smoking, nutrition and healthy eating, exercise or how to be more stress resilient, to name a few lifestyle issues that can affect their workplace performance.