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December 27, 2023

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Investment needed to prevent future “economically inactive” workers, IOSH warns

The Government has been urged to oversee greater investment in occupational health to “prevent the workers of today becoming the economically inactive of tomorrow”.

CREDIT: Keith Larby/Alamy Stock Photo

The call has come from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) in a letter to Mel Stride, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (pictured).

In the letter, IOSH Chief Executive Vanessa Harwood-Whitcher went on to add that such investment would align with the Government’s priorities for growing the economy, cutting NHS waiting lists and reducing debt.

She also called for progress on the Women’s Health Strategy, which was presented to Parliament in August 2022, and includes specific regard to women-specific issues that can be managed and supported within a workplace context.

Among the other asks in the letter were a more proactive approach to ratifying International Labour Organization conventions relating to occupational safety and health, along with:

  • ensuring better management of asbestos risks to workers, including stronger regulation and enforcement;
  • putting workers’ health and safety at the heart of AI legislation and regulation;
  • continued monitoring of Free Trade Agreements to ensure an emphasis on improved labour standards;
  • and updated to the Modern Slavery Act.

Vanessa said: “We the UK proudly champion some of the world’s best occupational safety and health standards, but it’s clear from our research and engagement with our tens of thousands of British professional members – who provide competent health and safety assistance to employers of their respective workforces – that more is needed.

“Next year marks 50 years since the commencement of the Health and Safety and Work Act, presenting an opportunity for this Government to modernise legislation. While the UK has an enviable record in safety, the subject of occupational health, specifically mental health and occupational cancers, is an immediate area of our focus.

“With more than a quarter of working-age Britons unemployed or economically inactive, equal support for keeping people in work is imperative, with key HSE figures for Great Britain (2022/23) announced on 22 November showing there remains 875,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety.”

IOSH, the global chartered membership body for health and safety professionals, also recently wrote to two other senior Government figures Victoria Atkins, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and Greg Hands, Minister of State for Trade Policy in the Department for Business and Trade, both of whom were appointed in the most recent Cabinet reshuffle.

The letter to Greg Hands went into further detail on the Modern Slavery Act, highlighting its omission from the King’s Speech and describing it as “an area of great concern” and a “growing global scourge”.

It added: “Our Modern Slavery Act should be strengthened, and it is a matter which ought to be given due consideration in discussing Trade matters, and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you to consign human trafficking and modern slavery to history.”

In the letters, IOSH said it would be pleased to support the Government in all of these areas, along with any others relating to occupational safety and health.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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