Putting the ‘health’ in to ‘health and safety’

Richard Catt, ceo, CFA

IT’s funny how the way you read something can alter, if someone gives a different interpretation. Like a song when you’ve never properly listened to the lyrics, it’s difficult to shake off and in the case of a word or phrase, you may never read it in the same way again.

This happened to me recently with the phrase ‘health and safety’. Ridiculous really, because how can you possibly read three words and put a different interpretation on them? But that is what happened to me when I attended a short presentation given by Andrew Percy of B&CE last year and then again, when I invited him to repeat his presentation in February to the CFA council.

For me, up until then, the word ‘health’ within the phrase ‘health and safety’ very much played a supporting role. It had a bit part to the star ‘SAFETY’.

‘Health’ was, in my mind, only part of the phrase because it was a direct result of being safe. If you did things safely, I rationalised, you’d be healthy and that was all that was trying to be implied or imparted.
But Andrew and B&CE challenged that for me and made me think again. I’m not going to suggest an epiphany, but I really have changed how I view the subject of health and safety and it made me curious to understand a little more about what Andrew and B&CE are developing.

In short and to get to the point, Andrew suggested that in fact we should consider ‘health’ as almost a separate subject and one that in the context of many people’s interpretation of health and safety needed awareness raising significantly. Essentially, truly putting the ‘health’ into ‘health and safety’. To put that into context, Andrew quoted a few figures. While they’re very general and across construction, they do make you stop and think. Or at least that is what they did to me:

For example, construction workers are 100 times more likely to die from an illness caused by work than from an accident; 80,000 construction workers suffer from work-related illnesses each year; and 1.9 million working days are lost due to self-reported illness caused or made worse by their job.
Source: B&CE website www.bandce.co.uk

Effectively B&CE (our preferred partner for this type of work and a not-for-profit organisation) want to help the industry greatly improve these statistics. While flooring is recognised as a relatively low-risk occupation, the CFA council and I can see nothing but benefit through engaging with the principles of monitoring workers’ health, to actively identify changes, and supporting with appropriate action.

This is, I stress, not about managing people out of jobs if they start to suffer poor health, which has been one interpretation. I believe it’s more about helping people recognise health issues before they become a problem, in order to effectively keep people working, and working for longer, should they wish to.

One element of this (because of course everyone’s health is different) is mental health. Unless you’ve been away from civilisation for a little while, you’ll both recognise the increased opportunity for work to affect mental health, and the need to be aware of one’s own mental health and those around you.

Long hours, a 24/7 world that expects responses immediately as well as new pressures from social media, that can be a blessing as well as a curse. Work-life balance is difficult to achieve at the best of times and sometimes it simply gets the better of you. And if it does, ignoring it or negative signs from those around you, is not really an option.

I’m sure my attitude to things like the environment and how I view energy and waste have changed significantly in the past few years. And to a greater or lesser degree, I’m starting on a similar journey with those three words: ‘health and safety’.

If you’d like to learn more about the people’s health scheme and the benefits of getting your business and employees involved in a health surveillance scheme, contact B&CE:

CFA: 0115 9411126