Workplace wellness, health and wellbeing have been trending topics for a while now. People are tuning in to mental health, mindfulness, healthy eating and fitness regimes on a personal level. So why is it that when it comes to health and safety rules and regulations in the workplace, there is much less enthusiasm?
Some are joked about and trivialised, others are outright ignored – but health and safety legislation has massively reduced workplace illness and injury in the last few decades, contributing to the improved health and wellbeing of workers in every sector.
Proven to help
It was in 1974 that the Health and Safety at Work Act, Health and Safety Commission and Health and Safety Executive were created. Prior to this, minimal provisions were in place for agricultural workers and those working in nuclear power stations – but there was no far-reaching law to protect people in more standard workplaces.
According to statistics from the Health and Safety Executive, the number of fatal injuries to employees in the UK has dropped 85% since 1974, with non-fatal injuries down 58% since 1986. Since 1990, overall reports of work-related ill health are down around 33%, and musculoskeletal disorders as a result of work or the workplace have been reduced by 40%.
Clearly, ongoing improvements to health and safety practices are having an impact. Though it can be easy to write off certain rules as “too much red tape” or as being overly cautious, action taken to keep employees safe and well is proving to make a real difference. Risk assessments, simple safety protocols and better education work hand-in-hand to protect anyone and everyone from workplace risks and hazards.
Workplace Wellness and Wellbeing: Improving Health and Safety education
Introducing new legislation isn’t enough, on its own, to keep workers safe and well. While new laws make it possible for enforcement actions to be taken against employers who put their staff at risk, the best way to ensure workplace wellness and wellbeing is to keep all staff trained and up-to-date with the latest safety procedures.
In an office environment this could be as simple as pointing out the potential hazards of new equipment or making sure that new recruits are familiar with fire safety procedures and any hazardous cleaning chemicals on site. In construction and other more dangerous industries, sending staff on NEBOSH training courses or other high-level education will be required.
More recently, workplace wellbeing practices have also begun to add emphasis to the importance of maintaining good mental health. While health and safety regulations are generally about physical dangers and protections, mental health can be improved by providing workers with an environment where they feel safe and where they are not under pressure to regularly cover other staff’s absences.
In training employees to act safely both in their own interests and in the interests of their colleagues, an improved sense of wellness in the workplace can be achieved.
Wellness for productivity
Unsurprisingly, a healthier workforce is a more productive workforce. One study by Aviva found that 61% of respondents stated that they would work harder for an employer who invested in their health.
Health and safety adjustments and improvements over the years mean that workers aren’t needing to take as much time off for sickness or injury as they have in the past – the number of days lost due to sickness absence in the UK has dropped sharply from over 180 million to less than 140 million in the last 20 years.
Of course, health and safety updates are designed for the benefit of workers, but that benefit is being passed on to their employers too. In turn, improved staff health and morale lead to better productivity and minimises business sick pay costs and insurance costs.
Continuing to strive for improvement
Though completely removing all risks and hazards is not necessarily achievable, there is always room for improvement in health and safety at work as well as all-round workplace wellness and wellbeing.
“There is evidence that investing in OSH increases staff morale, improves business reputation and saves money,” British Safety Council Policy Director Louise Ward says. “But there are still plenty of employers who haven’t yet recognised the benefits of making these investments.”
What can be done?
As an employer, deciding what actions to take to improve the health and wellbeing of employees can be tricky. A simple measure as a first step could be as easy as assigning relevant e-Learning courses to your employees to show them you are thinking of their health outside of the working environment.
As part of the Safety Media open license your employees would have access to the “expected” training titles such as “DSE“, “Manual Handling” and “Fire Safety” but they will also have access to titles such as “Health & Wellbeing“, “Stress Management“, “Change Management” and many more. Assigning courses is simple and your employees can have access to as many courses from our complete library as you see fit.