Author Bio ▼

Dr Karen McDonnell is Head of Global Relations at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). She is also the immediate past president of IOSH.
January 12, 2024

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Culture and behaviours

Five New Year’s health and safety resolutions

Dr Karen McDonnell, RoSPA’s Occupational Health and Safety Policy Adviser, suggests some ideas on using the dawning of a new year to refresh your health and safety practices.

As we welcome 2024, health and safety managers find themselves at a critical juncture to reflect on the past year and set goals for creating safer and healthier workplaces in the upcoming one. It’s an ideal time to pause, reflect and reset.

Review your risk assessments

Assessing and controlling risk is key to managing health and safety effectively and is a legal obligation for all businesses. However, it can be tempting to see risk assessments as static documents and, as more pressing issues take precedence, updating an assessment can be seen as a non-urgent task.

However, all workplaces will see some level of change over time, whether it be new equipment, new employees or new procedures, and these can lead to new hazards that may not have been previously considered. Take some time to look at any changes that have occurred recently or lessons learned from accidents or near-misses and if necessary, update your risk assessments.

Involve workers

workplace safetyThe Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says that there is strong evidence showing that workforce involvement in health and safety boosts performance, productivity and motivation as well as leading to reduced levels of illness and injury.

Worker involvement can include consultations, regular meetings or behavioural safety initiatives but in its most simple form just means taking the time to talk to staff and listen to what they have to say. After all, workers may often have a better insight or a different perspective into working practices and the risks associated with them and may be able to offer fresh ideas on how to tackle them.

Highlight the importance of housekeeping

Slips, trips and falls are the most common cause of injury at work and many occur due to poor housekeeping, which can lead to hazards such as blocked walkways, spillages or unexpected obstacles.  Ensure that there is sufficient storage, with enough bins, and promote a tidy workplace and a proactive approach amongst workers, so that if a problem is spotted it is either sorted or reported immediately. Also check that lighting is working ok, flooring is in a good condition and equipment and machinery are regularly inspected and maintained.

Focus on mental health

In 2022/23, stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 49% of all work-related ill health and 54% of all working days lost due to work-related ill health, yet mental health is still seen as a taboo subject in many workplaces. Supporting employees can make them more loyal, motivated and engaged as well as reducing levels of absenteeism. Try to create a more open, supportive environment at work, take steps to create a mental health policy and make sure line managers are trained in understanding mental health issues.

Explore safety beyond the workplace

If you feel that the health and safety systems and record at your workplace are already performing well, why not consider taking steps to help workers stay safe outside of work? Each year in the UK, around 6,000 people a year die following an accident at home, compared to around 200 people who die in accidents at work. In addition, 10-20% of workplace absenteeism occurs as a result of injuries sustained outside the workplace.

By taking the safety knowledge and expertise you already use at work and applying it to employees’ whole lives, we can reduce the number of life-changing accidents affecting them and their families. This could mean getting communities, schools and the families of workers involved with safety initiatives or taking steps to improve road safety, whether it is work or non-work related. Find out more here.


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