Health & Safety

It’s Time To Put The “Health” into “HEALTH AND SAFETY” - Gary Noakes and Rob Castledine

Apr 09 2004

Author: Gary Noakes and Rob Castledine on behalf of Casella

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The importance of preventing work-related accidents is well understood in most organisations. Meeting their cost is becoming increasingly important, particularly as businesses are being called upon to reduce operating overheads and increase profitability and performance.

The causes of safety-related accidents are being identified and corrected, thereby preventing similar accidents from recurring (and rightly so). Companies are adopting good standards of housekeeping, safe systems of work and effective management of safety issues in the workshop. These companies would claim to be devoting substantial sums of money to health and safety matters.

Unfortunately the "health" element of "health and safety" is the poor relation in terms of number of people affected, and receives far less attention than it should.

It is often seen as more problematic. Diagnosis of health related matters may be difficult, the effects may be latent, factors surrounding its cause are likely to be complicated and the controls within the workplace to prevent ill health may take time to develop.

The implementation of health-related measures offers mainly long-term benefits and this can be a problem when developing a cost benefit analysis.

However, ill health and absence due to work-related issues are tremendously important – the figures speak for themselves. The Health and Safety Executive reported that in 2001/2 work related illness was responsible for the loss of 33 million working days while in 2002/3 there were around 230 deaths and 150,000 work related injuries.

An HSE survey showed that as long ago as 1997 there were almost 1 million people suffering from vibration white finger, work related hearing problems and breathing problems alone. Although deaths within the workplace were published, the annual "deaths" figure did not, however, take account of the 6000 people whose cancer deaths were from work related causes and the 1000 who died from asbestos related diseases.

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