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Stuart O'Brien

British Safety Council updates Five Star Audit spec for 2021

The British Safety Council’s Five Star Occupational Health and Safety Audit has been revised and updated to place a greater emphasis on assessing how effectively an organisation manages risks to workers’ health and wellbeing together as well as business resilience and recovery.

The Five Star Occupational Health and Safety Audit provides a quantified outcome with detailed recommendations; it goes beyond the requirements of current health and safety management standards such as ISO 45001 and provides a structured route toward best practice status. Undertaking this audit enables organisations to demonstrate their commitment to achieving excellence in health and safety standards.

David Parr, Technical Advisor at British Safety Council said: “The Five Star Audit is a challenging process – the outcome is detailed findings and recommendations for improvement that organisations, who are truly dedicated to worker health and safety, can implement to demonstrate their commitment toward continual improvement.

“In these unique times, effective management of health, safety and wellbeing has perhaps never been more important. The Five Star Occupational Health & Safety Audit is the most comprehensive, contemporary, quantified audit process available, which allows organisations to evaluate their health and safety performance against the latest legislation, recognised standards and best practice techniques.”

British Safety Council says it believes that no one should be injured or made ill through their work. During times of significant change and uncertainty British Safety Council understands the importance of being flexible and adapting to circumstances to ensure that new risks associated with the changing workplace are addressed.

The updated guidelines can be downloaded from British Safety Council website and include greater emphasis on wellbeing in the workplace to reflect the risks to workers mental health that a transforming work environment can present.

Organisations who achieve a five-star rating following the audit process are eligible to enter the prestigious, internationally recognised, Sword of Honour award recognised as the ‘best of the best’ in health and safety.

Health & safety solutions: 2021 buying trends revealed

Wellbeing Services, Compliance and Behavioural Safety top the list of services the UK’s leading health & safety professionals are sourcing in 2021.

The findings have been revealed by the Occupational Safety & Health Forum and are based on delegate requirements at the event.

Delegates registering to attend were asked which areas they needed to invest in during 2021 and beyond.

A significant 59% are looking to invest in Occupational Health & Wellbeing Services, followed by Compliance (57%) and Stress Management (54.5%).

Just behind are Stress Management (54.5%) and Risk Management/Assessments (50%).

% of delegates at the Occupational Safety & Health Forum sourcing certain products & solutions (Top 10):

Occupational Health & Wellbeing Services 59.1%
Compliance 56.8%
Behavioural Safety 54.5%
Stress Management 54.5%
Risk Management/Assessments 50.0%
Site Safety 47.7%
Wellbeing/Wellness 47.7%
Incident Reporting 45.5%
Contractor Management 40.9%
Fire Safety Management 40.9
%

To find out more about the Occupational Safety & Health Forum, visit https://oshforum.co.uk.

HSE releases workplace deaths data

Provisional data released by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) shows that a total of 142 workers were killed at work in Great Britain in 2020/21, an increase of 29 from the previous year – though the number of deaths in 2019/20 (113) was low compared to other recent years. 

In statistical terms the number of fatalities has remained broadly level in recent years – the average annual number of workers killed at work over the five years 2016/17-2020/21 is 136.

Over the past 20 years there has been a long-term reduction in the number of workplace fatalities, demonstrating that Great Britain is one of the safest places to work in the world.

The figures released by the HSE relate to workplace incidents. They do not include deaths arising from occupational exposure to disease, including Covid-19. 

HSE’s Chief Executive, Sarah Albon, said: “Whilst the working world in which we now live has created new health challenges for workers and for those who have a duty towards them, safety must also remain a priority. Whilst the picture has improved considerably over the longer term and Great Britain is one of the safest places to work in the world, every loss of life is a tragedy, we are committed to ensuring that workplaces are as safe as they can be and that employers are held to account and take their obligations seriously.”

The three most common causes of fatal injuries continue to be workers falling from height (35), being struck by a moving vehicle (25) and being struck by a moving object (17), accounting for more than half of fatalities in 2020/21.

These figures also continue to highlight the risks to older workers with around 30 per cent of fatal injuries in 2020/21 involving workers aged 60 or over, even though such workers only make up around 11 per cent of the workforce.

In addition, members of the public continue to be killed in connection with work-related incidents. In 2020/21, 60 members of the public were killed as a result of a work-related incident.

The figures for Mesothelioma, which is a cancer contracted through past exposure to asbestos and is one of the few work-related diseases where deaths can be counted directly, show 2,369 people died in Great Britain in 2019. This is seven per cent lower than the average of 2,540 deaths over the previous seven years. 

Current mesothelioma deaths largely reflect occupational asbestos exposures that occurred before the 1980s. The figure for 2019 is consistent with projections that a reduction in total annual deaths would start to become apparent at this point. However, it is still not certain how quickly annual deaths will decline. 

A fuller assessment of work-related ill-health and injuries, drawing on HSE’s full range of data sources, will be provided as part of the annual Health and Safety Statistics release on 16 December 2021.

BSA warns on risks to workers as COVID restrictions near end

The British Safety Council believes that while the withdrawal of some COVID regulations is valid, removing the mask mandate is the wrong decision to take now and risks real danger to workers.

The Prime Minister has announced the removal of almost all COVID controls from 19 July, including rules on social distancing and the cap on the numbers allowed at events. The wearing of face masks on public transport and in shops and hospitals will cease to be mandatory and will become a matter of personal choice.

With COVID cases rising rapidly, the BSA says masks protect others should you be asymptomatic, so wearing a mask indoors and in crowds reduces the risk of further spreading the disease.

While the vaccination programme has been a success, being vaccinated only reduces the likelihood of ending up in hospital, but it does not give full immunity, so the risk of serious illness remains high.

Furthermore, although the link between cases and hospitalisations is weakened, it’s not broken – the expected 100,000 cases a day could lead to 2,000 admissions, twice what the NHS sees in the depths of winter for all respiratory infections. Plus, millions of people are not yet fully vaccinated.

British Safety Council believes that delegating the decision on the wearing of masks to individuals risks chaos and confusion, as organisations and businesses interpret the change differently and impose their own rules. What businesses need most is certainty and consistency on what is the right thing to do.

It says the mixed messaging from Government is failing to provide reassurance to workers in transport, healthcare and retail who remain concerned about their safety. It adds that it has heard from British Safety Council retail members, for example, that they are planning to leave in place check-out screening to protect workers. Not only does this provide a physical barrier, but also psychological reassurance to staff.

British Safety Council is therefore urging the Government to re-think its policy on the wearing of face masks given the risks it presents to worker safety and not leave the decision to personal choice.

Lawrence Waterman, Chairman of the British Safety Council, said: “To go from the controls put in place for the last 15 months to nothing overnight is a significant risk and particularly to UK workers. While we would all like to believe that everyone will act responsibly, experience shows us this is not guaranteed. There has been a fantastic level of public compliance with the rules, why go from collective protection to a free-for-all?  The Prime Minster himself has said caution is absolutely vital – if he truly believes this, then he should show leadership on the wearing of masks rather than take a leap of faith into the unknown that risks all the sacrifices and hard-won progress made since March 2020.”

Occupational Safety & Health Forum: Secure your place for 2022

Don’t forget – the next Occupational Safety & Health Forum takes place on February 1st and delegate places are strictly limited, so make sure you secure yours today.

This event can help you build business connections with the latest innovative and budget-saving suppliers within your industry.

Date: 1st February 2022
Location: Radisson Blu Stansted

We will handle everything for you, saving you time and money by arranging all of your meetings – condensing months of work into a single day.

Plus, you can attend entirely for FREE. 

BOOK YOUR PLACE HERE

Do you specialise in Fire Safety Management? We want to hear from you!

Each month on Health & Safety Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on a different part of the security market – and in August we’ll be focussing on Fire Safety Management.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help health & safety buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a supplier of Fire Safety Management solutions and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Charlotte Humphreys on c.humphreys@forumevents.co.uk.

Study finds construction workers at higher risk of suicide

Initiatives aimed at protecting the mental health of construction workers may not be getting to those who need them, leading to an increased risk of suicide, researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University have warned.

The new findings come after academics at the University’s Research Centre for Built Environment Asset Management (BEAM) Centre helped develop a ‘dashboard’ of wellbeing for the industry, commissioned by construction mental-health charity, the Lighthouse Club.

The dashboard will be an interactive database, bringing together in one place measurable data in the public domain on construction safety, health and wellbeing. This will be updated yearly, allowing industry organisations, policy makers and researchers to view trends via graphs generated by the data, as well as use it to track progress of industry initiatives, inform decision making and undertake further analysis using the source data.

The work involved bringing data together on suicides – seen as the ‘acid test’ as to whether mental-health initiatives are working – for the period immediately before and subsequently after the UK Government Independent Review on mental health ‘Thriving at work’ in 2017.

Analysis of suicides by occupation, conducted by Professor Billy Hare (pictured, above), who is leading the study, demonstrated that the number per 100,000 for construction workers rose from 26 to 29 in the four years to 2019, despite various initiatives and thousands of awareness training sessions put in place since publication of the Government report in 2017.

The data also shows no change in historical ratios, with people in the construction industry three times more likely to take their own life than those working outside it. There also appears to be some variation between certain occupational groups within the industry.

Those working in non-manual occupations, such as managers and professionals, have lower rates, which have also seen an overall drop in rate from just under 7 in 2015, to just under 5 per 100,000 in 2019. Conversely, unskilled workers, such as labourers, have seen their rate rise year on year from 48 to just over 73 suicides per 100,000.

Professor Hare said: “This occupational group is usually higher than average for suicides, but the sharp rise and widening gap over the period analysed, in contrast to their non-manual colleagues, is concerning and may indicate recent initiatives are not reaching these more vulnerable sectors of the industry.

“Unskilled workers tend to fall into the lowest socio-economic classes, which are associated with lower life expectancy in general, and tend to display the classic characteristics linked to poor mental health, such as alcohol and substance abuse, financial and relationship problems and suffer multiple stressful life events.”

Professor Hare cautioned, however, that these are just preliminary findings and more robust data needs to be obtained so that factors such as age can be controlled for. Usable data was only available for England and Wales, and the team are hoping to also add those for Scotland and Northern Ireland in due course.

Meanwhile, researchers led by Professor Hare are also undertaking a review of construction-specific factors around suicide, funded by the Samaritans. This research will inform the charity’s development of intervention strategies to reduce the high rates seen in the construction industry.

Lack of employer psychological health awareness leaves staff at higher risk of depression

A year-long Australian population study has found that full time workers employed by organisations that fail to prioritise their employees’ mental health have a threefold increased risk of being diagnosed with depression.

And while working long hours is a risk factor for dying from cardiovascular disease or having a stroke, poor management practices pose a greater risk for depression, the researchers found.

The University of South Australia study, published in the British Medical Journal, is led by UniSA’s Psychosocial Safety Climate Observatory, the world’s first research platform exploring workplace psychological health and safety.

Psychosocial safety climate (PSC) is the term used to describe management practices and communication and participation systems that protect workers’ mental health and safety.

Lead author, Dr Amy Zadow, said that poor workplace mental health can be traced back to poor management practices, priorities and values, which then flows through to high job demands and low resources.

“Evidence shows that companies who fail to reward or acknowledge their employees for hard work, impose unreasonable demands on workers, and do not give them autonomy, are placing their staff at a much greater risk of depression,” said Dr Zadow.

Internationally renowned expert on workplace mental health, ARC Laureate Professor Maureen Dollard, says the study found that while enthusiastic and committed workers are valued, working long hours can lead to depression. Men are also more likely to become depressed if their workplace pays scant attention to their psychological health.

Due to the global burden of depression, which affects an estimated 300 million people worldwide and shows no sign of abating despite available treatments, more attention is now being paid to poorly functioning work environments which could contribute to the problem.

High levels of burnout and workplace bullying are also linked to corporations’ failure to support workers’ mental health.

A second paper co-authored by Professor Dollard and published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology earlier this month, found that low PSC was an important predictor of bullying and emotional exhaustion.

“Lack of consultation with employees and unions over workplace health and safety issues, and little support for stress prevention, is linked to low PSC in companies.

“We also found that bullying in a work unit can not only negatively affect the victim, but also the perpetrator and team members who witness that behaviour. It is not uncommon for everyone in the same unit to experience burnout as a result.

“In this study we investigated bullying in a group context and why it occurs. Sometimes stress is a trigger for bullying and in the worst cases it can set an ‘acceptable’ level of behaviour for other members of the team. But above all bullying can be predicted from a company’s commitment to mental health, so it can be prevented,” Prof Dollard added.

The global costs of workplace bullying and worker burnout are significant, manifested in absenteeism, poor work engagement, stress leave and low productivity.

The extent of the problem was recognised in 2019 with the International Labour Organization (ILO) implementing a Global Commission on the Future of Work and calling for “a human-centred approach, putting people and the work they do at the centre of economic and social policy and business practice”.

“The practical implications of this research are far reaching. High levels of worker burnout are extremely costly to organisations and it’s clear that top-level organisational change is needed to address the issue,” Prof Dollard said.

employers advised to increase bereavement support

RedArc is warning employers to be prepared for a huge spike in the need for bereavement support services and counselling for employees during the remainder of 2021.

Based on year-to-date figures, the nurse-led wellbeing service is predicting a 40% year-on-year increase in referrals to its bereavement support, which means that it will help the largest number of bereaved individuals in one year in its 23-year history. This follows several years of bereavement referrals being relatively stable.

Further analysis of RedArc’s data shows that in quarter one of 2021, referrals for bereavement were second only to mental health conditions (of which there are many variants), and ahead of orthopaedic issues and cancer.

In addition, RedArc believes that many of the employees who lost loved ones during the second wave of the pandemic are yet to come forward for support. Bereavement, grief and loss cause a number of symptoms and emotions that individuals usually learn to cope with but where these feelings become overwhelming and do not subside, professional support may be sought several months, or even years, after the initial loss.

Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc, said: “Employers are likely to be seeing the after-effects of the pandemic on their employees before we do, so many will already understand the impact that losing a loved in such an untimely manner is having on staff. Unfortunately, the pandemic not only took away loved ones but also removed our ability to properly grieve: not being at a loved one’s bedside, reduced numbers at funerals, social distancing, a hug ‘ban’, and being unable to see family and friends, means more people than ever are struggling with their emotions in bereavement.”

Employers need to re-familiarise with bereavement support
RedArc is encouraging all employers to re-familiarise themselves with how they support their staff during a bereavement. Whether or not this is via existing employee benefits such as group risk insurances or funded on a case-by-case basis, it’s important to communicate this information to employees.

Husbands continued:“Following the stresses and strains of the past eighteen months, employers may find that their staff are not emotionally resilient at present and therefore coming to terms with the loss of a loved one is even more difficult. In addition, many families will have organised a relatively small funeral but may be looking to host a larger celebration-of-life service or ceremony at a later date, which means the grieving process is also extended. Therefore, employers should also be aware that their employees may grieve harder and for longer than in normal circumstances.”

Types of bereavement support
As well as providing emotional support for the employee and their immediate family, bereavement services may also offer tailored support ranging from reading materials such as books, CDs, workbooks and fact-sheets as well as signposting employees towards national and local bereavement charities and self-help groups. Practical help often includes sourcing care for family members left behind, helping the employee juggle work, childcare etc, support for parents also coping with their children’s grief, and coping strategies for dealing with milestones such as anniversaries, birthdays and Christmas.

Husbands concluded:”There is no timetable for the grieving process – everyone will have a different experience. That’s why employers need to ensure they have support in place that can be tailored to meet the individual needs of staff because no-one can predict how long it will take to adjust to living without a family member or loved one particularly when lost in difficult circumstances.”

SAVE THE DATE: Occupational Safety & Health Forum 2022

The next Occupational Safety & Health Forum takes place in February 1st – delegate places are strictly limited, so make sure you secure yours today.

This event can help you build business connections with the latest innovative and budget-saving suppliers within your industry.

Date: 1st February 2022
Location: Radisson Blu Stansted

We will handle everything for you, saving you time and money by arranging all of your meetings – condensing months of work into a single day.

Plus, you can attend entirely for FREE. 

BOOK YOUR PLACE HERE