IOSH: Prioritise workplace health to keep people in work

A policy expert from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has called on the government to prioritise investment in workplace health, safety and wellbeing in order to keep people in work.

IOSH calls for greater focus and investment in workplace health safety and wellbeing to boost the economyIn a recent blog post, Corey Edwards, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Manager at IOSH, said that better investment in occupational safety and health (OSH) would “prevent the workers of today becoming the economically inactive of tomorrow.”

His words came after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced this month (February 2024) that there are now 2.8 million people in the UK who are classified as not looking for work due to long-term health issues.

This represents an increase of a third on pre-pandemic levels of long-term sickness (2.1 million people).

Investment in workplace health would boost UK economy

Edwards said that greater focus and investment in workplace health would help the government to deliver their post-Brexit priorities to grow the economy and cut NHS waiting lists.

He asserted:

“Failing to address long-term sickness and support the more than a quarter of working-age people in the UK who are economically inactive will hinder such pledges.”

A prevention first approach to workplace health can ensure more people are able to start, return to, stay in and succeed at workHe pointed out that there are an additional 3.7 million people “who are working with a health condition that restricts the type or amount of work they can do.”

This figure represents a 60% increase within the last decade.

He said the current situation amounted to a “tragic waste of human talent and potential.”

Good work is good for people’s health

IOSH has previously called for improved practices and better support to enable more people with disabilities and long-term health issues to work.

Good work is good for people's health and wellbeing and people should be supported into appropriate and rewarding rolesArguing that “good work is good for people’s health and wellbeing,” the leading workplace health and safety body suggested that OSH professionals could play a key role in enhancing workplaces and supporting employers’ efforts to employ, retain and accommodate more people with disabilities. They can also recommend workplace assessments and adjustments to help workers remain safe at work and ensure they can return to work effectively.

Urging employers to generally “adopt a more human-centred attitude to their employees that will help boost their health and wellbeing,” Edwards said the key was “to find people appropriate and supportive work that’s good for them, good for society and good for our economy.”

Prioritising workplace health could bring widespread benefits, he argues, enabling countless people, including those who are disadvantaged, “to start, return, stay and succeed in work.”

A prevention-first approach to workplace health

IOSH has long championed a proactive, holistic and prevention-first approach to workplace health, safety and wellbeing, advocating measures such as:

  • Implementing psychosocial risk management strategies
  • Ensuring greater access to occupational health services
  • Revisiting the Employment Bill and the draft Mental Health Act Reform Bill

Last year, after the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) annual statistics revealed that half of all cases of work-related ill-health in Great Britain in 2022-23 were due to workplace mental health problems, IOSH reiterated its belief that a people-focused work culture is key to reducing and preventing such problems.

Citing how poor mental health costs UK employers an estimated £45 billion a year as a result of issues such as absenteeism, presenteeism and staff turnover, Edwards says:

“There’s no question investment in good OSH practice yields valuable returns and should never be viewed as an avoidable cost.”

Transforming workplace health will help boost the economy, cut NHS waiting lists and boost mental health and wellbeingHe also referred to a recent statement from the Resolution Foundation which asserted that tackling rising ill-health represented a “huge social and economic challenge” that we will be grappling with for the next decade.

Another key challenge identified by the Foundation was the need to boost the UK employment rate to match and exceed pre-pandemic levels.

Edwards and the leading OSH body he represents believe that transforming workplace health and wellbeing will help us get to grips with both.

He concluded his blog post by stating that any measures to boost people’s mental health and wellbeing “must be real, it must have an impact, and it must be sustained.”

Training to support workplace health, safety and wellbeing

First Response Training (FRT) is one of the UK’s largest and leading national training providers.

Workplace health safety and wellbeing training for all organisations across all sectorsThey deliver a wide and diverse range of training for businesses and organisations across all industry sectors and throughout the UK. Their course range includes training in the fields of health and safetyfirst aidfire safetymanual handlingmental healthfood safetyhealth and social care and more.

Their health and safety training is mapped to UK standards and legislation and follows HSE guidelines. The portfolio includes courses such as Health and Safety, Managing Health and Safety, Risk Assessment, Accident and Incident Investigation, Working at Height, Asbestos Awareness and many more.

An accredited Mindful Employer themselves, FRT’s specialist mental health training courses include Understanding Mental HealthMental Health Awareness in the WorkplaceManaging StressAnxiety and Phobias AwarenessSelf-Harm Awareness and Suicide Awareness.

They can also provide qualified, approved trainers to deliver accredited Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training courses, including the Adult, Youth and Lite versions.

A trainer from FRT says:

“We believe in creating safer working environments with people who care. This is our vision and central to our services. It means providing training that helps to protect people’s physical and mental health, safety and welfare.

“Any life lost at work is obviously one too many, and non-fatal injuries can also have significant, life-altering impacts on workers. Additionally, while stress is not recognised as a diagnosable mental health condition, it can lead to more serious mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, and can also have physiological effects.

“It’s important to recognise the severity of stress and to learn proactive and positive ways for managing, minimising and preventing stress, both in the workplace and in our personal lives and to ensure that we regularly undergo essential training in health, safety and welfare across all organisations and industries.”

Helpful resources

brief summary of our mental health training can now be downloaded as an infographic.

We also have a number of other free infographics available to download which provide simple tips for helping to manage your mental and emotional wellbeing and proactively manage your stress levels. These include:

You can also download our free Guide to Mental Health Training from our website.

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to