Informa Markets

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June 28, 2016

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Safety talks at SHExpo: Learning to share



Companies need to learn to be less competitive when it comes to knowledge as “Knowledge isn’t power,” health and safety leader Helen Rawlinson told the second Safety talks session; “Sharing is.”

With safety, the risk was “right there in front of us”, she told delegates, whereas with health things had a latent effect and harms were not immediately obvious. There had been 13,500 cases of occupational cancer reported last year alone, she said. “We live and work in a society where it’s unacceptable to get hurt at work, but that has to apply to health as well as safety. We haven’t really got off the ground with health.”

However, the lessons of safety could easily be applied to health, she stressed. “We’ve learned a lot – that if we keep things fresh, simple and innovative, we’ll have an engaged workforce.”

One problem was that sharing was rare across the industry, she warned. “How many of us have a dedicated webpage on our corporate websites where interested parties can see what we’re doing with health management? It needs to be less of a closed book. We’re talking about people’s lives, health and wellbeing.

“Sharing is weird for us as humans,” she acknowledged. “We don’t like to do it, and we’re competitive. But just as we convince people on the safety side that they’re inspirational leaders, we can also apply that to health.”

One key way of boosting overall health in the workplace was through fitness, she explained. “I’m not talking about an elite, athletic workforce – just encouraging people to be more fit, and therefore more alert. It makes good business sense.” Easy ways to do this included things like cycling challenges, provision of free fruit and ‘take the stairs instead of the lift’ campaigns.

“We’ve learned from safety that there’s no one-size-fits-all, and people will invest if they have choice. But if you don’t become proactive with their mental as well as physical health, you’re on to a losing battle. As organisations we need to be able to support our workforce so that when they’re feeling anxious or stressed they have the tools to deal with it.”

Finally, education was vital, she said. “It’s trial, test and share. You need to ask the workforce what they want to learn – don’t assume. Employ a health professional to talk to them, rather than keeping them in a room for death by PowerPoint.

“Let’s raise the bar for health as far up as it is for safety,” she told delegates. “The wellbeing of your employees is as important as protecting them from hazards.”

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