The British Safety Council has indicated that it will make health and safety in the workplace the centrepiece of its annual conference, which will take place in October this year.
According to the council, the 2016 edition of the conference will address “the pertinent and still-controversial issue of responsibility for health in the workplace”.
The conference is due to take place that the King’s Fund in London on 5th October.
Each year, significant numbers of workers are injured or made ill by their work.
As well as the financial costs from these cases – for example, in terms of lost production and healthcare costs – these cases impose human costs.
Impact on the individual’s quality of life are common, and loss of life can even result in the most extreme cases.
The total economic cost of workplace injuries and ill health includes both the financial costs incurred and a valuation of the human costs.
And latest estimates show that annually over 600,000 workers in the UK are injured in workplace accidents and a further 500,000 workers suffer a new case of ill health which they believe is caused or made worse by their work.
Figures from the Health & Safety Executive indicate that in the UK in 2014/15 1.2 million people suffered from a work-related illness, while 142 people were killed at work in accidents.
While the cost of workplace injury in 2013/14 is estimated to be around £15 billion.
Thus, speakers at the conference will discuss what employers should be doing, how they can encourage staff to manage and improve their health, and how such responsibilities can be shared most appropriately.
Commenting on the conference, Mike Robinson, the British Safety Council’s chief executive, stated that the challenge of workplace safety was becoming more complex and involved for a wide range of businesses in the contemporary economic climate.
“We know that ‘safety’ has dominated the conversation for decades. Now we are looking at the place of health in this debate. Is it occupational health or is it health and wellbeing? The question remains how do we encourage health: what opportunities are there to learn lessons from the safety culture to help build a health culture? We also know that mental health is a particularly important aspect of this and we have so much to do in terms of addressing just this element of health in a more coherent way.”
While there is a tendency to focus on workplace safety as being related to physical issues, the impact on psychological well-being and mental health should not be underestimated.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in 2014/15, 440,000 people in the UK reported work-related stress at a level they believed was making them ill.
This figure amounts to 40% of all work-related illnesses in total.
And psychological problems, including stress, anxiety and depression, are behind one in five visits to a GP.