Life saving work

What do you think of when you hear the words health and safety? Is it the protection of workers and the public, or the ‘elf and safety gone mad’ stories that are so prevalent in the media?
    
‘Elf n safety’ has become a popular and easy to hide behind excuse for every form of risk aversion. The banning of pancake races, hanging baskets, and seasonal decorations and lights on grounds of ‘elf n safety,’ which in reality may be down to concerns over being sued or even plain laziness, are doing enormous damage to the really important – literally life saving work – which lies at the heart of the real health and safety agenda.
    
But what does health and safety really mean? Does it simply mean fulfilling your legal responsibilities as an employer or as a regulator?

Real risks
Health and safety means much more than that. It can help local and central government target real risks, which can not only benefit businesses but also wider communities, helping make them healthier and safer. Reducing sickness absence from injury and ill health caused, or made worse, by work means better delivery of public services.
    
When people are exposed to unacceptable work-related risks, their physical and mental health is likely to suffer. This places additional demands on the local economy, services such as healthcare, the police, social care and other support services.
    
In 2008/9 in Great Britain 180 workers were killed at work and 134,914 other injuries to workers reported. In the same period, 94 members of the public were fatally injured due to work related incidents and 20,709 members of the public injured and taken directly to hospital.
    
Each year thousands of people die from work-related disease and in 2008/9, 1.2 million people were suffering from an illness they believe to be caused or made worse by their current or past work. The emotional and financial toll to families, friends and communities is enormous.
    
We cannot put a cost on the emotional toll but we can see the impact on the economy. Around 29 million working days were lost in 2008/9 due to the consequences of accidents at work and work-related health. Looking at the finances, it is estimated that the annual cost to society of work-related accidents and ill-health is a staggering £20 billion (approximately 2 per cent of GDP). In today’s economic climate can we really afford this? Can you afford this?
    
Great Britain has one of the best health and safety records in the world. However, although the rates of death, injury and work-related ill health have declined for most of the past 35 years, today’s headline figures indicate that the combined incidence of injury and ill health in Great Britain is much the same now as it was five years ago.
    
Whilst HSE and LAs as regulators have a major role to play to bring about improvements in health and safety performance, there is a need for everyone to work together to reduce the incidence of injuries and ill health in the workplace. For that to become a reality, everyone has to understand the role they have and become better at managing their individual responsibilities.

Strategy & leadership
In June 2009 HSE launched its new strategy ’The Health and Safety of Great Britain – be part of the solution’. The strategy was developed in consultation with local authorities, employers, employees and their representatives. It recognises and addresses the many stakeholders who have a role in maintaining and improving health and safety standards. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act established a simple and enduring principle that those who create risk are best placed to manage it.
    
First and foremost is leadership. Health and safety must start from the top of every organisation, whatever its size. HSE and LAs provide support to businesses in helping them understand and manage their legal duties. Ultimately we are working to help sustain an innovative, technological and progressive economy, with prosperous and safe workplaces.
    
Our mission is to prevent death, injury and ill health of those at work and those affected by work activities. We work together using a risk-based approach to targeting our interventions to deliver national, regional and local priorities. We also have a responsibility to dispel the myths by encouraging a sensible approach to public safety issues.

Safer communities
An initiative launched in 2005 by Salford City Council, Bury Metropolitan Borough Council and Greater Manchester Police focused on raising awareness of workplace violence and improving standards of security and safety, particularly in retail.
    
After the success of this initiative it was rolled out across Greater Manchester and many LAs across the country have their own projects to reduce work-related violence. For example, more recently, Westminster City Council worked with the Metropolitan Police Service and major coffee store chains to reduce crime in coffee stores and provide a safer environment for staff at work and for customers.
    
The overall outcome is reducing levels of crime and a reduction in anti-social behaviour meaning that people feel safer in their neighbourhood

Healthier communities
There are an estimated 8,000 work-related cancer deaths per year of which about half are due to past exposure of asbestos. Asbestos exposure is a significant health risk among tradesmen, it is vital to make them aware of the dangers. Hull Environmental Health worked with Hull College Construction School and developed a programme of asbestos awareness seminars for joinery, bricklaying, plumbing and electrical students
    
In 2010/11 many LAs are planning to promote the need for management arrangements to ensure that under 18s do not use sun beds and that coin operated salons are supervised by trained staff. By raising awareness and health and safety management we can reduce the incidence of work-related diseases, leading to lower mortality rates and hospital admissions.

For more information
For a clear statement of core principles and a sensible approach to health and safety in Great Britain: http://www.hse.gov.uk/strategy
    
HSE’s own myth of the month sets the record straight on many health and safety fallacies or misconceptions. To see HSE’s myths of the month: http://www.hse.gov.uk/myth/index.htm

Event Diary

You are invited to this unique annual exhibition that brings together all the disciplines from the emergency services sector who are involved in prevention, response and recovery.