Dame Carol Black opens The British Safety Council Annual Conference
The British Safety Council’s annual conference ‘Health and Work in a Changing World’ opened this morning in Cavendish Square, London.
Chair of Trustees Lynda Armstrong, opened the conference by looking back at the organisation’s 60 year old vision, still relevant today: ‘No-one should be injured or made ill at work’, and noting how far the industry has come over that 60 year period.
People are our most significant asset
“When the founder James Tye started the British Safety Council, health and safety was about identifying and mitigating physical and mechanical hazards” Lynda said. “However in these changing times more people have moved to professional and service based roles, posing different risks.”
She continued: “Health follows a different pattern over many years and can be more difficult to understand.” concluding, “People are our most significant asset”.
Mike Robinson, CEO, welcomed the audience to the conference by reflecting back over his first year in the role. Even in that time he feels there have been more and more conversations around health. “The cost of not managing health is becoming more visible. It’s a challenging theme for the conference, and so is managing health at work, which can take months or even years.” Mike said. “Ill-health may not be a direct result of the workplace but it can still have an impact on workers doing their role safely.”
Speaking of a new initiative, which looks at mental health in construction Mates in Mind, Mike then spoke about an industry wide issue of mental ill health with likely stressors including heavy workloads, job insecurity and high risk activities. “With 2.5 million workers, construction is just the start” Mike said.
It’s not all about fruit bowls and cycle to work schemes – those just plaster the cracks
Dame Carol Black, who authored the 2008 government report Working for a Healthier Tomorrow, which focused on the impact of sickness absence on the health of the working-age population and on the economy, began the day with a talk on integrated health management at work.
Looking at studies in the USA, Dame Carol, spoke of what UK companies can do to help integrate and coordinate health in the workplace.
“It’s not all about fruit bowls and cycle to work schemes – those just plaster the cracks – it’s about looking deeper into the work environment, the leadership, mental health, fairness and job design.
“It’s about modifiable risks in the workplace and worker participation, involving the lowest level of workers – the refuse collectors in the councils and the porters in the hospitals. These people need to feel engaged.”
On mental ill health Dame Carol concluded: “Mental health is a business issue – the economic cost is high, but the human cost can be far higher.”
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