In January, it’s possible that greater workloads, longer hours and wintery conditions can increase the risks workers get exposed to. Here, deputy director at the Health and Safety Executive, Peter Brown, offers eight health tips for workers in 2018.
The New Year can be a quiet time for some. With depleted funds, the start of new diets and the end of the office party season, for many, January is an uneventful month.
However, the extraordinary popularity of January sales means that, on shop floors and in warehouses and delivery depots across the country, it can be one of the busiest times of year for small business owners.
January can therefore lead to a rise in the number of hazards and risks workers are exposed to.
Staying healthy this year
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are one of the most commonly reported causes of occupational ill health in the UK, and 11m working days are lost each year due to work-related stress.
With up to 159,000 new cases of workers suffering from MSDs each year, and over half a million of workers suffering from work-related stress in 2016 to 2017, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has collated its top tips, aimed at those industries most affected by the busy period, to ensure workers can go home healthy in 2018.
(1) Listen to your staff and encourage them to speak up if they feel like they’re beginning to struggle, or feeling under pressure to deliver, as this could be the early warning signs of work-related stress.
(2) To avoid the need for heavy-lifting work activities, promote the use of lifting aids and trolleys to help reduce the risk of injury when moving goods or delivering parcels. It’s important to note that parcels of awkward sizes and shapes present greater risks.
(3) Engage your workforce during this busy period. Promoting the right culture can help achieve healthier and safer working.
(4) Repetitive tasks can lead to neck, back and arm strain – rotate jobs between staff to avoid fatigue and injury.
(5) Make sure your workers get the opportunity to rest and destress during the busy period.
(6) Don’t re-invent the wheel – use tried and tested ways to minimise pressure.
(7) Encourage workers to do anti-fatigue stretches – these can reduce the chance of injury when making lots of deliveries.
(8) Don’t use the busy season as an excuse to stop tackling work-related hazards including stress. Injuries and ill health are still a risk.
Protecting worker health and safety for the future
The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) latest annual injury and ill health statistics show 1.3m people reported they were suffering from work related ill-health in 2016 to 2017, costing businesses and the economy more than £9bn, with 26m working days lost in total.
To tackle the problem of work-related ill health, the HSE launched its Go Home Healthy campaign in September 2017, with the aim of tackling three priority areas; MSDs, work-related stress, and occupational lung disease.
Businesses, employers, directors and managers are encouraged to visit the campaign microsite where they can access a range of resources including examples of stress risk assessments, case studies of organisations leading the way in managing work-related stress, as well as low-cost solutions aimed at improving manual handling and specialist design solutions which can reduce the risk of MSDs.
While Britain remains one of the safest places to work, there is still a lot to do to drive down work-related ill health. We encourage everyone, employers and workers alike, to take extra care so that everyone can go home healthy in 2018.
Peter Brown is head of the health and work programme and deputy director at the Health and Safety Executive, Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety.
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