Health risk management cannot be boiled down into simple toolkits or checklists, according to the president of the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS).
Speaking at the Safety and Health Expo, Neil Grace said companies need to “embrace health” like they already embrace safety.
Mr Grace quoted statistics that show that while the number of deaths from workplace accidents has fallen from around 5,000 deaths per year in the last century to less than 150 now, there are still 13,000 people dying from work related illness in the UK.
“For far too long we have been shouting about safety and whispering about health. That’s something we have to change.
“While zero accidents are a laudable goal, zero harm would be a much better one, but this change needs to come from the top,” he told delegates at the event.
“Controlling exposures requires comprehensive, robust and realistic risk assessments carried out by competent individuals,” said Mr Grace.
“And accurate risk assessments which look at individual situations and propose the most effective control measures,” he added.
“There needs to be an acceptance, ownership and effective implementation of those controls. We need to be actively involved in selecting these control measures, understanding how they work and challenging their performance, and adapting them specific situations.
“For maximum benefit, we need to have different control measures and they need integrating, going beyond a simple a hierarchy. The one-size-fits-all does not work always, so maybe we need to look at some key performance indicators (KPIs).”
Mr Grace also talked about the BOHS Breathe Freely campaign, which aims to create awareness of the risk to employers and highlight the solutions that are already available.
He added that in the next month or so, BOHS will be launching a new online welding selector tool.
“You can put in what type of welding you are doing, how long you are welding for and it will come out with a control sheet, stating what controls are requirement,” he told the event.
“It’s important to reduce exposures,” he added. “I think occupational hygienists can help at every stage of that process. They are scientifically trained to provide accurate assessment and effective control measures in the workplace.
“The challenge is to take this back to the employers. Our mantra should be sharing the stats, sharing the story and sharing the controls already available.”
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