The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced a new strategy aimed at improving occupational health standards and reducing sickness absence across the UK’s business sector.

The Health and Work Strategy comprises three themes: work-related stress; lung disease and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). At the launch event in December 2016, HSE chair Martin Temple said that stress and MSDs are responsible for 80 per cent of sickness related lost working time, whilst lung disease accounts for 90 per cent of work-related deaths.

With the new initiative comes a renewed focus on work related stress and MSDs. The HSE has devised individual plans for 19 industrial sectors from broad areas like construction, manufacturing, waste and recycling to more specifics such as offshore energy, fairgrounds and theme parks and bioengineering. The scheme is in addition to the Help Great Britain Work Well campaign that launched last autumn.

Through the new campaign, the HSE will work alongside employees, employers and the health and safety community at large with the aim of reducing incidences across their three priority areas. With regard MSDs, there is an additional aim of reducing the severity of the incidences as well as the quantity.

The Business Benefits of Health and Safety

Through the strategy, the HSE will, amongst other initiatives, work to promote the business benefits of effective MSD management. These include increased efficiency and productivity; lower staff replacement and retraining costs; fewer days lost to sickness absence; lowered insurance and compensation costs and a reduced risk of litigation.

The British Safety Council takes this subject further in its 2014 review, ‘The Business Benefits of Health and Safety’, stating that there is evidence that investing in occupational health and safety can increase staff morale, organisation loyalty and contribute to an organisation’s reputation. The review also cites research by insurance provider Aviva showing that approximately 61 per cent of workers stated they would work harder for an employer who invested in their health. This they call a ‘psychological contract’ between employer and employee.

Focus on Musculoskeletal Disorders

Work related musculoskeletal disorders are, according to the HSE, the most common reported cause of occupational ill health in Great Britain and account for 41 per cent of all work-related ill-health cases and 34 per cent of all working days lost to ill health.

In actual numbers, total work related MSD cases in 2015/2016 were in the region of 539,000, resulting in 8.8 million lost working days and equating to an overall cost to Great Britain of more than £5 billion.

Personnel in all industries and business sizes can be affected, although the majority of incidences occur across construction, health and social care, transportation and storage, forestry and fishing and agriculture.

The HSE aims to conduct targeted interventions in high-risk sectors and occupations with the objective of reducing the number of new cases of ill health caused by work related MSDs.

All Businesses at Risk of Work Related Sickness Absence

Whilst there is no doubt that certain industries face higher risks than others concerning the potential for work related MSDs, in reality, any organisation whose employees are required to undertake any form of manual or people handling task is going to be at risk.

Assessing those risks is key to managing work related MSDs, and then following through to reducing those risks by, for example, introducing a standardised training programme; introducing changes to processes and/or bringing in lifting and carrying aids and considering, where appropriate, changes to the working environment.

At Alistair Bromhead Ltd we offer a range of courses aimed at helping employers efficiently manage their risk surrounding the potential for staff developing MSDs during their work. The courses include training and refreshers for manual handlers and people handlers as well as for manual and people handling trainers, ideal for organisations seeking to install their own in-house trainers. There is also a manual handling risk assessor certificate course aimed at equipping staff with the ability to conduct manual handling risk assessments. All training is practical and interactive and can be tailored to the specific needs of the industry sector and individual business. Use the links on the left to navigate the full list of courses and please get in touch should you require any further information.