HSE International

Construction fatalities drop 26%

Despite the upturn in construction activity, the industry’s fatal accident rate declined sharply last year.

Provisional annual data for work-related fatal accidents in Great Britain’s workplaces from the Health & Safety Executive show that 35 fatal injuries to construction workers were recorded in the year to 31st March 2015. This represents a rate of 1.62 deaths per 100,000 workers.

Over the past five years the average has been 45 construction site deaths. In 2013/14 there were 44 fatalities in construction.

HSE has also released the latest available figures on deaths from asbestos-related cancer. Mesothelioma, one of the few work-related diseases where deaths can be counted directly, contracted through past exposure to asbestos killed 2,538 in Great Britain in 2013 compared to 2,548 in 2012 and 2312 in 2011. The increase in mesothelioma deaths in recent years has been driven mainly by deaths among those aged 75 and above, the HSE said. Of the deaths in 2013, 415 were among women and 2123 were among men – again these are similar to numbers in 2012 when there were 411 deaths among women and 2137 among men.

A more detailed assessment of the data will be provided as part of the annual HSE Statistics release at the end of October.

Original Source: http://bit.ly/1KuJUYk

Prevention as cure: slips, trips and falls

Slips, trips and falls are the leading cause of major injuries in the workplace. Lionel Bailey examines how firms can protect their workers through training and proper communication.

The prevention of workplace accidents should always be a priority for employers. However, ensuring that an effective health and safety strategy is implemented and understood by the whole workforce is often a challenge. With many firms employing a strong contingency of temporary staff, coupled with the complexities that accompany managing teams across multiple sites, training and communication are vital in reducing the potential of any slips, trips and falls in the workplace.

Firms should aim to put together a complete health and safety training programme by gathering input from facilities managers, health and safety managers and floor staff to identify potential risks. Employee health and safety training should form part of the induction process so that employees are fully briefed from the outset. New staff may be unfamiliar with key procedures such as how to use certain pieces of equipment, and a general unfamiliarity of the workplace means employees are at a greater risk of slips, trips and falls.

For companies with a high staff turnover or those that use a contingency of temporary workers, this can be especially challenging. Often in this case, forming a close relationship with an employment agency is vital. Having a health and safety manager provide recruiters with a training programme and information regarding pertinent slip, trip and fall hazards in the working environment can reduce the risk of accidents. In addition, implementing a written test or questionnaire after the course of training will ensure that agency staff who fully understand health and safety procedures are invited to work on site.

In every workplace, there should be a clear chain of communication through which employees can report any emerging hazards or concerns. Each team should have a safety representative who is responsible for relaying such concerns to the site health and safety manager. However, if employees do not feel that their input has been sufficiently addressed, an open door policy can be useful for any workers who wish to escalate their concerns to higher management.

Similarly, one of the most important tools for risk reduction is ‘near-miss reporting’. Here, employees are encouraged to contact safety representatives in instances where physical obstructions, wet floors or similar hazards had the potential to cause a minor accident. This allows facilities managers to implement changes to ensure that a more serious slip or fall does not take place. Communicating steps that the organisation has taken in reaction to near-miss reports is also important – sharing this information on a health and safety notice board or company newsletter will encourage employees to report other incidents.

Training aside, consistent and continuous monitoring of the working environment is necessary in order to maintain best practice and remove hazards before they cause accidents. A large proportion of slips, trips and falls are caused by extension leads, electrical cabling, pieces of pallet or discarded packaging. Implementing a clean as you go mentality among staff and ensuring it is properly enforced via regular spot checks can help to reduce potential risks.

For health and safety managers overseeing a number of sites, there must be a degree of delegation to individual facilities managers to carry out these checks. However, impromptu audits can help in ascertaining quality control. Also, inviting health and safety representatives to visit various sites can encourage the sharing of expertise and best practice, which could aid in driving improvements.

In order to reduce the incidence of slips, trips and falls, health and safety managers must ensure that staff receive the correct training, are able to communicate any concerns and adequately report near-miss incidents to a safety representative. Spotting the emergence of hazards before they occur and implementing a culture of continuous assessment can significantly reduce the risk of staff injuries.

Lionel Bailey is a health and safety specialist at Office Depot

Original Source: http://ubm.io/1CYet0N

Industry urges employers to address mental health issues

Employers are struggling with mental health as concerns grow over long-term absence, an EEF/Jelf Employee Benefits survey has found.

  • Overall sickness absence remains low at 2.2 per cent; however
  • Long-term absence sees largest rise in five years;
  • Mental health issues most difficult to make work adjustments for;
  • Only one in ten companies provides manager mental health training;
  • Third of employers rely exclusively on NHS to address long-term absence; and
  • Four-fifths of companies don’t measure cost of absence.

Britain’s manufacturers are urging government, employers and GPs to tackle increasing levels of mental-health and stress-related sickness absence, amid evidence that it remains in the ‘too difficult to deal with’ box.

The call was made on the back of the UK’s largest business survey on sickness absence published today by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation and Jelf Employee Benefits. It shows employers and GPs are struggling to address mental-health issues in the workplace and growing concerns at long-term absence trends.

Commenting, Professor Sayeed Khan, Chief Medical Adviser at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said: “While overall absence levels remain low, there continues to be a marked difference between short- and long-term absence which is creeping up. Without a renewed effort to tackle its root causes it will continue to act as a drag on the economy and efforts to improve productivity and boost growth.

“Of particular concern is the gradual increase in stress and mental-health-related problems over the last 5 years with which GPs and employers are struggling to deal. As a society we can no longer ignore the very real impact of these issues both on the individuals concerned and the wider economy. Whilst employers and GPs appear able to manage other causes of absence they must now be given the tools to deal with stress and mental-health issues in the same way.”

Iain Laws, Managing Director – UK Healthcare and Group Risk at Jelf Employee Benefits, added: “The importance of Occupational Health and growth in health benefit provision resonates with employers who are increasingly recognising the productivity impact of ill health. It is therefore a little surprising that so many organisations still do not have formalised systems to identify absences at an early stage so these can be managed through effective interventions.

“Reliable, easy-to-use absence-recording systems empower employers and managers to provide the support to employees to minimise absence and manage longer-term or complex cases. This in turn can have a positive impact on benefit costs as early detection and action often means lower treatment costs as well.”

According to the survey, overall sickness absence remains low at 5.1 days (2.2%) with half of employees having zero absence. However, this masks evidence that the ‘ sickness presenteeism’ which marked the period of recession is fading away: absence levels increasing slightly by 0.2 days, the number of manual workers reporting zero absence falling for the first time in five years and the fact only 55% of companies hit their absence target, the lowest since 2008.

While overall absence levels remain low, however, there is a marked difference in long-term absence with two-fifths of companies reporting an increase, while only a fifth reported a decrease. This is the largest increase in five years, a period where long-term absence has been gradually increasing.

Back pain and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) remain the main cause of long-term absence (38%) with stress and mental-health disorders the main cause of absence for one in four companies, although this has gradually crept up since 2009.

However, stress and mental illness is regarded as the most difficult form of absence to make workplace adjustments for with almost a third of companies saying this is the case. Furthermore, a third of employers said that they do not have approaches for managing mental-health-related long-term absence, whilst evidence suggests GPs also find it difficult to suggest workplace adjustments, highlighting the need for more training in this area.

Just one in ten companies provides training for line managers in mental-health issues and only 2% of companies have an open mental-health disclosure policy, suggesting business matches society in finding it a difficult issue to address.

The survey also shows that employers’ approach to managing absence remains mixed. Encouragingly, the number of companies setting absence targets is increasing (a third have no target compared to two-fifths last year) and two-fifths can make workplace adjustments or provide training to manage long-term absence.

However, in contrast, almost three quarters of companies don’t measure the cost of sickness absence. In addition, 70% don’t measure the return on their investment for the health & well-being benefits they offer while only 3% do.

According to EEF, the new Fit for Work service will be critical in reducing long-term absence, especially MSD’s and mental health issues. However, EEF doubts whether the current tax-incentive offered is sufficient enough to encourage employers to pay for treatment.

EEF has made the following recommendations to create conditions for the service to succeed:

  1. Ensure the service is resourced with healthcare professionals with knowledge of different industries so that appropriate interventions and adjustments can be made.
  2. Ensure return-to-work plans are discussed with all relevant parties before they are agreed and finalised.
  3. A discussion between the employer and Fit for Work service before it is agreed with the employee.
  4. Introduce health tax-credits or allowable business expenses to incentivise employers to pay for treatment recommended by the Service or Occupational Health provider.
  5. Mandatory referral of employees who are likely to be absent for more than four weeks.
  6. Statutory Sick Pay paid only on condition the employee co-operates with the Fit for Work Service.
  7. Restrictions on GPs signing employees off for more than four weeks unless the patient engages with the service.

Original Source: http://www.shponline.co.uk/industry-urges-employers-address-mental-health-issues/?

More than 1 in 5 UK workplaces are “bad for worker’s health”

Work is having a negative impact on people’s health and well-being, with 1 in 5 workplaces being ‘bad for worker’s health’, a study has found.

The study of 2,000 full and part time UK workers conducted by One4All Rewards, highlights the importance of employers making a conscious effort to look after the welfare of their workers.

In the past year, 11 per cent of employees said that they had become ill as a direct result of their work. Twice that number said that they regularly suffer from high levels of stress due to work pressures. And 17 per cent admitted that they often had problems sleeping as a result of their jobs.

As a result, a significant proportion (23 per cent confessed that they were underperforming in their work. When asked to estimate what impact a more positive environment would have on their performance, 22 per cent estimated that their output would improve by over 10 per cent.

Worryingly, only 6 per cent of workers felt that work actually had a positive impact on their health and wellbeing, indicating how few UK employees find work a positive and enjoyable experience.

Declan Byrne, managing director of One4all Rewards, comments, “These are worrying findings for everyone.  Not only are many workers feeling increasingly stretched and unhappy, but their employers are also losing out as stressed-out workers significantly underperform.

“Recent studies have shown how 80 per cent of white collar workers in the UK currently work over 40 hours per week and also that developments in technology mean that it is getting harder and harder to switch off when not in the office.

“This report indicates the importance employers should be placing on ‘Workplace Wellness’ – not only out of a sense of corporate responsibility, but also as a way to boost productivity and give them a competitive edge when recruiting and retaining the best staff.”

Workers in London are the worst affected according to the research, with 33 per cent admitting that their work is suffering as they are (compared to the national average of 23%).

Those workers most likely to be in relatively junior positions (those aged between 25 and 35), are also feeling the pressure, with 30% admitting their performance was below par.

 Meanwhile the worst affected sectors are IT, PR and Marketing, with 37 per cent of workers reporting reduced productivity as a result of poor health or stress.

Byrne continues, “In order to create more positive working environments, businesses need to consider how they can incentivise better behaviours.  Putting out the right messages about working habits and rewarding people with health-enhancing benefits, such as fitness activities, duvet days and creating the right facilities in the office can make commercial sense as well as being good corporate behaviour.”

Original Source: http://www.shponline.co.uk/1-5-uk-workplaces-bad-workers-health/?

How will CDM and occupational health shape the future of construction?

CDM and occupational health are two of the topical issues set to stimulate debate at this year’s Safety & Health Expo. SHP looks more closely at how both are shaping the future of construction.

According to the Health & Safety Laboratory, construction remains a high-risk industry. While only about 5 per cent of UK employees work in the sector, it accounts for 27 per cent of work-related fatalities, and 10 per cent of reported major injuries.

Additionally, those working in the construction sector face a number of serious ill-health issues, including occupational cancers, along with the physical health risks. The Health and Safety Executive estimates that past exposures in the construction sector annually cause over 5,000 occupational cancer cases and approximately 3,700 deaths.

With these headline figures in mind, Safety & Health Expo features a fully comprehensive education programme that will cover many of the pressing issues facing professionals working in construction and how they can tackle these.

In April, the revised legislation for Construction (Design & Management) Regulations came into force, which will have a significant impact on the construction industry, specifically small-to-medium-sized enterprises. The exhibition will host two keynote sessions in the revamped IOSH/SHP Arena, which will explore the challenges that this legislative change will pose for safety and health professionals and the construction industry.

On the first day at 3pm, James Ritchie, head of external affairs and deputy chief executive for the Association for Project Safety, will chair a panel session on ‘CDM – embracing change’, which will look at the issues and approaches to the practical implementation of CDM 2015 to date, and will offer an opportunity for the audience to field questions. Simon Toseland, compliance services director at the Salisbury Group; Clive Johnson, group head of health and safety at Land Securities; Paul Bussey, associate at Scott Browning; and David Lambert, head of safety, health and environment at Kier (&UKCG), will join him on the panel.

“The health and safety industry can assist with the implementation of CDM 2015 by taking a proportionate but considered approach to construction health and safety risk management,” says James Ritchie.

“Small, simple projects should only require the production of short, simple, construction phase plans and provision of clear information from designers on only the significant residual design risk issues in their designs. This approach relies on those construction health and safety practitioners who advise clients, contractors and designers, to ensure that they are not creating unnecessary bureaucracy in order to ‘cover backsides’. There is, and will be, a need for good clear risk management advice on larger or more complex projects and health and safety practitioners, who have a good understanding of the design and construction process and how to coordinate health and safety, will have an important part to play in the delivery of CDM 2015.”

The IOSH/SHP Arena’s will host a second session on Thursday, 18 June at 1pm, which focuses on CDM. Led by Martin Cook, director at Turner & Townsend, the session, ‘CDM 2015 – an opportunity and framework for improvement’, will introduce both practical and effective solutions to risk and performance management.

While CDM will clearly be high on this year’s agenda, occupational health is an increasingly important issue for the construction sector, with cases of occupational ill health on the rise. HSE reports that more construction workers have been killed by occupational cancer than accidents. For every fatal accident in 2012-13, approximately 100 construction workers died from a work-related cancer.

Jason Anker from Proud 2b Safe will contribute a sobering presentation in the IOSH/SHP Arena on 18 June at 10.30am, which highlights just how vital it is that the safety and health of all workers remains a priority. Jason was left paralysed from the waist down after an avoidable incident on a construction site in 1993 after falling off a ladder. Jason’s honest and graphic account of the devastation the incident has had, not just on himself but also family and friends, underlines the need to think seriously about attitudes towards safety in the workplace.

On Wednesday, 17 June at 1pm, IOSH will present a session in the arena that specifically focuses on occupational cancer. Asbestos sufferers Keith Tonks and Linda Lakin will share their stories, highlighting how even very low levels of asbestos exposure, inhaling as little as three or four fibres, could cause mesothelioma. These real-life stories bring to the fore why occupational health issues need to be taken much more seriously by businesses.

“Serious, often irreversible, long latency disease ought to be a very high priority for the construction industry, including H&S professionals attached to the industry. The single biggest cause of this kind of disease in construction is ‘dust’. This includes respirable crystalline silica, wood dust, plus a variety of other components,” states Chris Keen from the Health & Safety Laboratory, which will be exhibiting at the show.

“Successfully tackling the issues will require a cultural shift in the industry, and associated supply chains. At the top of the supply chain, architects etc. should consider occupational health risks when designing projects. At the other end of the supply chain, workers and supervisors have to recognise the importance of controlling exposures to ‘dust’, etc. Tool manufacturers and suppliers have the potential to play a key role in moving the industry forward by building in exposure controls as standard on power tools, especially those known to generate high dust exposures such as circular saws and sanders.”

Keen adds: “The industry has proved that it can make significant health and safety improvements as the huge decline in fall from height related fatalities proves that. And the wide recognition of asbestos risk demonstrates that the industry understands at least some of the issues around long latency disease. We don’t generally need to devise new technical solutions to exposure control, just ensure that recognised solutions are properly, and sustainably, implemented.” With occupational health high on the agenda for many industries, not just construction, the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) will once again host the occupational health theatre.

Several sessions that specifically explore occupational health for those working in construction include one by Mike Slater, director of Diamond Environment Ltd, who will discuss how a collaborative approach to tackling lung disease in construction is needed.

To coincide with Health and Safety Week, a Health Symposium will be taking place at the Safety & Health Expo on Thursday, 18 June. To tie in with the focus on occupational health, the all-day event will start with a panel debate on occupational health chaired by Steve Perkins, chief executive of the BOHS.

The second session will look at the business case for occupational health. A successful case study from Thames Water will follow a presentation on the return on investment that companies can get by looking after employee health.

The final session will be a series of educational workshops. Experts in different issues in occupational health, including respiration, legionella, stress, noise and wellbeing, will be going around each table to discuss the various pitfalls and opportunities that health and safety professionals can face.

For more information on Health and Safety Week or Safety & Health Expo and to register for your free visitor pass, please visitwww.safety-health-expo.co.uk/SHP

Original Source: http://www.shponline.co.uk/2015-building-healthier-future/

Yorkshire and the Humber is the most dangerous region for workers in the UK, with 4,100 incidents per 100,000 workers.

4.1% of workers in Yorkshire and the Humber reported work related stress or musculoskeletal disorders. In London, which has the lowest number of reported incidences for both types of work-related issues, only 2,160 incidences per 100,000 workers were reported.  

According to health and safety expert Bryan Richards, “these figures come as a shock to many when you consider that we tend to think of London as filled with the ‘high-pressure’ jobs, and office work which commonly leads to back and neck injuries.”

“In fact, because London is filled with young businesses and industries which tend to adapt quickly, workers in London are more likely to feel that they can report any mental health issues easily, and also are given more opportunities to access equipment such as standing desks, which may alleviate back problems.

“Other regions, in which companies may be more long-standing, there is more difficulty adapting. Financial issues in these northern regions may also lead to more stress on managers and consequently employees.”

Of occupations linked to musculoskeletal issues, those in building trades, nursing, personal care and skilled agriculture trades were more likely to suffer. Health professionals – in particular nurses – were also most likely to suffer from work related stress, depression or anxiety, along with educational and social care professionals. Large companies had a lower prevalence of musculoskeletal issues, but higher incidences of stress.

According to Dr Sheri Jacobson, Clinical Director at Harley Therapy, when it comes to stress there are several reasons why London’s workers tend to suffer less.

Jacobson said: “There are a wonderful set of opportunities outside work for people living in London, and a variety of social activities that can be life enhancing. There are fabulous parks that provide a range of activities, wonderful health centres and activities such as outdoor yoga. On top of this, higher pay rates in London create a high standard of living that allows people to enjoy life, eat good food and take trips.”

Lastly, in 2013/14 the total number of working days lost to musculoskeletal disorders was 8.3 million, with an average of 15.9 days absence taken per incident. For stress and anxiety, the average length of absence was 23 days a year – this amounted to 11.3 million working days lost for the UK as a whole.

Original Source: http://bit.ly/1Fiy0ck

Huge gulf in business sentiment and action on mental health, poll finds

Fewer than one in 10 employers have discussed mental health with their staff over the last year according to a major new poll, despite the fact that the vast majority of businesses say they should make provisions to promote emotional wellbeing.

Three quarters of business do not have a mental health policy in place, according to the Institute of Directors (IoD) survey, timed to coincide with Time to Talk day, which aims to break the taboo around mental health by encouraging people to talk about the topic.

The survey of 1,150 employees and 586 senior decision makers, carried out by YouGov, found that 74% of employees say they would prefer to discuss mental health concerns with someone outside of work.

“While we’ve witnessed public attitudes around mental health start to change, these findings show how much more needs to be done in the workplace,” said Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, the campign run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness that promotes Time to Talk day.

“However, it is encouraging to see that the majority of companies recognise they should do more and we have hundreds of examples of employers, from all sectors, who have already seen the benefits of implementing changes including mental health awareness for all staff, training for line managers, and improvements in the support offered to staff. There isn’t a lack of help and support available to employers, but we need to work together to bridge this gap.”

The findings reveal that the number of companies who put in place mental health programmes or have a company-wide policy on mental health is strikingly low, at just 23%. This is despite overwhelming support from both employers and staff for businesses to take a leading role in addressing mental health at work.

More than eight in 10 companies surveyed felt they should adapt their workplace and working practices to promote mental wellbeing, and 68% of employees agreed it was a business’s responsibility to make provisions for staff mental health issues and mental wellbeing.

Approximately one third of employees said stress and anxiety make it difficult to get their work done. The overwhelming majority – 93% – of businesses recognise that personal worries and stress can adversely affect staff performance.

Simon Walker, director general of the IoD, said business have an important role to play in bringing about an end to mental health stigma.

“There may come a time when people are as comfortable talking about their mental health as they are talking about the going to the dentist, but we’re not there yet,” he said.

“Huge progress has been made, but society still has a long way to go in increasing awareness and understanding of mental health issues. Businesses have an enormous role to play in creating an environment where such issues can be discussed openly, effectively and safely.

“After all, we spend a huge amount of lives at work and among colleagues, so we have to take steps to ensure that the work environment, particularly in smaller businesses, is one where mental health issues are well understood.”

See more at: https://sm.britsafe.org/huge-gulf-business-sentiment-and-action-mental-health-poll-finds#sthash.j3khFksN.dpuf

British businesses failing employees on mental health issues

A new survey has revealed that almost three quarters of British businesses do not have a strategy in place to deal with mental health issues.

A survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Institute of Directors (IoD) shows that 74% of businesses do not have a mental health policy, and just 7% of employers have discussed mental health issues with their employees.

Some 82% of companies said that they should be doing more to promote mental wellbeing, while 68% of employees said that it was their company’s responsibility to make provisions for mental health issues.

However, 74% of staff said that they would prefer to discuss mental health issues outside of their place of work with a friend or family member.

Simon Walker, director general of the IoD, said: “There may come a time when people are as comfortable talking about their mental health as they are talking about the going to the dentist, but we’re not there yet.

“Huge progress has been made, but society still has a long way to go in increasing awareness and understanding of mental health issues. Businesses have an enormous role to play in creating an environment where such issues can be discussed openly, effectively and safely.

“After all, we spend a huge amount of lives at work and among colleagues, so we have to take steps to ensure that the work environment, particularly in smaller businesses, is one where mental health issues are well understood.”

The results of the survey were revealed on national Time to Talk day – a national day created to promote more openness around mental health.

Original Source: http://bit.ly/1zCGPOe

Is it time for employers to play a greater role in public health?

Ill health – irrespective of what caused it – has a negative impact on productivity and public finances. The business case to address this health gap persists.

With more of us living longer, and living longer with health conditions, the costs associated with ill health – whether from reduced economic productivity or increased public spending – is likely to increase in the coming years. In the UK alone, the state spends over £12bn a year on health-related benefits and foregone taxes and employers face a £9bn bill. Yet the response so far to address this issue has not been effective.

In the workplace, the ‘health’ in health and safety remains pretty clear: health risks that arise from work activities must be controlled and there are clear duties about who is responsible for doing this. There are still compliance problems of course, as the growing costs of sickness absence due to stress and muscoleskeletal disorders testify, but the legal framework and the regulatory response is highly developed (if not, according to some, fully resourced).

However, given the impact of poor health on economic performance, impairments to health from non-work sources such as cancer, mental health problems or poor diets, would seem to make investment in this area worthwhile. The question arising, then, is about who and how.

From a regulatory point of view there are no duties to reduce such health risks and the institutional architecture to deliver improvements is not really in place.

Our attitude to responsibility in this area is also quite complex. There is something very powerful behind the principle of the Health and Safety at Work Act that those who create the risks have a duty to manage them. If we extend this principle to other aspects of health, we would say that generally it is the individuals who are responsible for their health and if they endanger their health through the choices they make, they must live with the consequences. Of course when this relates to cancer or disability, then it may be that no one is responsible, as it just happened from random (possibly genetic) factors.

In either case, one’s health is mostly seen as a private matter and the lack of regulation and institutional involvement reflects this. Even this is complicated when you consider the impact of work on existing health conditions, as recent research shows in relation to work-related stress and cancer. But the fact remains that ill health – irrespective of what caused it – has a negative impact on productivity and public finances. The business case to address this health gap persists.

The Way Forward: policy options for improving workforce health in the UK, the first white paper of the Health at Work Policy Unit of the Work Foundation, attempts to stimulate discussion and debate on this topic and is well-worth reading. One area is about the provision of workplace health and wellbeing programmes. Options about how to encourage workplaces to adopt them range from fiscal incentives such as tax breaks or levy systems to mandating employers to provide these programmes and responsible procurement by the public sector. Again though, questions of responsibility arise. Why should an employer pay for such a programme if one’s health is a private matter? Indeed why should governments?

This takes us back to where we started. The mantra good health is good business is backed up by the evidence. We now need to reframe it in terms of health economics that improved health will stabilise or even reduce public spending, as well as improve productivity.

An avenue to explore will be how the skills and experience of the health and safety community in identifying and managing work-related health risks can be harnessed for the future as economies change and the wellbeing agenda grows. Such a direction, in an election year where we need all parties to offer fresh ideas, could be the start of new efforts to promote health at work.

Matthew Holder is head of campaigns and engagement at the British Safety Council

See more at: https://sm.britsafe.org/it-time-employers-play-greater-role-public-health#sthash.LllBFNVp.dpuf

Harm reduction: occupational asthma

Occupational asthma remains a serious workplace issue. The HSE Asthma Partnership Board brings together organisations to collaborate on research findings and ensure they are relevant to practice. Jill Joyce explains its work.

At workingonsafety.net’s 7th International Conference in Glasgow last year, there was a call for greater collaboration between industry and academia to help reduce the number of people harmed in the workplace.[1]

Established by the Health and Safety Commission in January 2002, the Asthma Partnership Board (APB) aims to do just that by working at a strategic level to reduce the incidence of occupational asthma. Despite good progress in some areas, occupational asthma is still a major issue, with several hundred cases reported annually in Great Britain through The Health and Occupation Reporting network (THOR). The true incidence is likely to be substantially higher.

The APB brings together different organisations that are working to combat the threat posed by occupational asthma and asthma made worse by work. Chaired by Kären Clayton, director of the HSE Long Latency Health Risks Division, the board brings together the following organisations:

Health and Safety Executive.
National Health Service.
British Occupational Hygiene Society.
Chemical Industries Association.
Institution of Occupational Safety and Health.
Society of Occupational Medicine.
The TUC (and UNITE).
Bakers’ Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU).
Board members hold positions in a diverse range of occupations, ranging from occupational physicians in large manufacturing organisations and in the NHS, to medical advisers, academic researchers and safety and health practitioners.

Meetings are held twice a year and provide an opportunity to take time to step back and reflect on what is happening nationwide with asthma, learn about members’ current work and highlight priorities for action. Meetings enable members to test out ideas with peers from different walks of life.

Sometimes a member will have ‘a germ of an idea’ and will discuss this with the board to help them develop it into a research project. A recent example of this is work-related aggravated asthma (WAA). It has been known for a long time that working with certain substances can cause asthma – but what if you already have asthma and then start working in an environment that makes your asthma worse?

Although well researched in the USA, the issue has not really been explored in Great Britain and the group identified a knowledge gap. HSE provided funding and board member David Fishwick, a respiratory specialist physician from the NHS, and Lisa Bradshaw of HSL carried out a review of the literature to clarify a definition of the problem, its prevalence, the causative agents associated with the onset of WAA, the risk factors, the symptoms and diagnosis, and an estimate of the socio-economic burden.

Another example is occupational asthma in cleaners. This has led to a three-part HSE-funded project looking at the profile of occupational asthma in cleaners, components of cleaning products that could be potential asthmagens and practical solutions for the control of exposure to cleaning products.

A third area of interest has been asthma in bakeries. Although an overall decline in asthma in other industries has been reported in Great Britain, the trend is reversed for bakeries. IOSH has carried out a development fund project to try and raise awareness of the hazards in retail bakeries, providing free training and materials that could be used to cascade the learning to others in the workplace.

The board is also a useful conduit if comments are needed on information leaflets produced by group members, for example, new trade union guidance on aspergillosis – a workplace respiratory health hazard for farm workers.

In a nutshell, the APB is about partnership – breaking down silo working, sharing information and looking for ways to reduce the asthma burden in Great Britain.

Jill Joyce is senior policy and research adviser at IOSH

Original Source: http://www.shponline.co.uk/harm-reduction-occupational-asthma/?