World Day for Safety and Health at Work is a vital awareness-raising campaign from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) that takes place annually on the 28th April. Marking a commemorative date, the World Day for Safety and Health at Work shares the day with the international Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers organized worldwide by the trade union movement since 1996.
Last year, the ILO announced that globally, “more than 7600 people die from work-related accidents or diseases every single day” which is a horrifying statistic. The HSE has collected information about fatalities at work in the UK in a consistent way since 1981 when 495 workers were killed, this peaked in 1988 / 89 (due to the Piper Alpha disaster) with 609 lives lost. During the HSE 19/20 reporting year, 111 people were killed at work in the UK, which is the lowest number on record but is still far too many. It is worth bearing in mind that 65,427 non-fatal injuries were reported in the same 19/20 time period and a number of these would have been fatal without the significant medical advances over the last 40 years, however many of these non-fatal injuries will have had severe and life changing consequences for individuals and their families.
The world of work has changed hugely over the last 40 years with the reduction in traditional heavy industries and a rise in service organisations which have a very different set of hazards, some of which literally didn’t exist 40 years ago! Health and safety practice and management has had to continually adapt to these changing hazards enabling health and safety professionals to prevent people being injured or killed.
The Covid 19 pandemic has had a global impact on the world of work, from needing to prevent the transmission risk of the virus at work to the new hazards which have emerged as a result of measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. In the UK these have included a huge increase in people working at home in widely varying circumstances under lockdowns or stay at home orders. Working at home can lead to both physical problems (working at an unsuitable desk, or no desk at all) as well as psychological problems such as trying to deal with the ‘balance’ between work and home as well as feeling disconnected from the wider team / company. Conversely people who have not been able to work from home (it is difficult to weld a lorry or make a polymer at home!) have faced a different set of issues, with physical changes to the work place to prevent transmission risk and psychological problems of feeling under pressure due to fewer people in the workplace but the same volume of work to achieve.
World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2021 focuses on the impacts of Covid 19 with an overall theme of creating and investing in resilient occupational health and safety management systems which are flexible and adaptive in fast moving crises.
Reflecting on your health and safety management system is a great way to celebrate World Day for Safety and Health at Work and an easy place to start would be reviewing the new opportunities, challenges and risks of working from home.
So, here are some top things to consider when working from home:
- Set up and keep to working schedules
Whether setting your own or respecting employee work schedules, structuring work time will allow you and your employees to get the space away from work we all need to refresh. Some companies have started to enforce meeting free times such as lunchbreaks or a particular morning during the week to enable people to take a break. We all know how hard it is to separate work from home when home is your work!
- Have a dedicated work area
Typically, our working environments are analysed and enhanced for health and safety, however this isn’t the case when working from home. Everybody’s home circumstances are different, but setting up a dedicated area to work in with the best possible seating position and good light is certainly a good place to start
- Stay connected
One of the biggest issues with remote working is lack of communication. Good communication is not only essential for productive working, but also vital for our mental wellbeing. Utilising technology to stay connected can help improve communication, mental health and productivity.
There are lots of resources available online to help you set up your workstation and manage working from home, here are some from our trusted partner network:
- The Modern Ergonomist How to stay safe working from home during the Covid 19 outbreak
- Homeworker Magazine has a huge range of articles on all aspects of working from home
- Nova Associates has a range of blog posts on all aspects of mental health