IOSH shares workplace strategies to prevent suicide

As World Suicide Prevention Day was observed earlier this month, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) shared workplace strategies to support people’s mental health and prevent suicide.

The world’s largest occupational health and safety body said that the Covid-19 pandemic had negatively impacted the mental health and wellbeing of people across the world, “exacerbating what was already a less than ideal situation.”

Studies reveal Covid-19-related suicides

IOSH cited international studies that particularly indicate a significant increase in emergency workers attempting to take their own life.

The professional body said that data compiled by the Laura Hyde Foundation charity revealed that more than 220 nurses attempted suicide in 2020 across England and Wales.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), this is more than the total number of nurses who took their own life over the five years between 2013 and 2017.

IOSH also cited a separate study which used retrospective media reports to identify a total of 26 worldwide Covid-19-related suicides among healthcare professionals.

A third study in Cyprus also suggested that healthcare workers were experiencing post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression as a result of the pandemic.

OSH professionals to identify and help those at risk

IOSH believes that supporting and promoting positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace should form part of the occupational safety and health (OSH) role. Almost 3 in 4 respondents to the 2021 IOSH member survey agreed with them.

Karen Michell, the Research Programme Lead for Occupational Health at the professional body said it is time for businesses to “raise awareness and upskill where needed,” so that OSH professionals are equipped to “identify those at risk, advocate for them in the workplace and refer them on for supportive help as required.”

She also outlined key preventative strategies that OSH professionals could help implement in the workplace. These include:

  • Changing the culture at work to breakdown the stigma attached to mental health issues and encourage mental health conversations in the workplace
  • Asking colleagues if they are okay
  • Introducing interventions such as increased awareness of suicide and suicidal ideation among workers, training line managers and employees on how to identify the signs and offering access to support services that can help individuals.
  • Identifying a workplace mental health champion, who can confidently be approached for support.
  • Ensuring understanding of high-risk groups, including construction workers, nurses, doctors, police and firefighters.
  • Integrating suicide prevention strategies into existing mental health strategies in the workplace.
  • Ensuring post-ideation intervention and follow up
  • Managing issues at work that could lead to suicide and ideation, such as stress and poor control over psychological stressors.
  • Training mental health first aiders at work

IOSH offers a number of relevant resources for managing mental health and wellbeing at work, including their guide Working well – guidance on promoting health and wellbeing at work.

The National Institute of Mental Health identifies the following warning signs that someone may be at risk of suicide:

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty or hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
  • Exhibiting extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
  • Making a plan or investigating ways to kill themselves, such as researching online
  • Talking about feeling great guilt or shame
  • Acting anxious or agitated

The charity Heads Up also has advice on what to do if you notice any of these warning signs:

  • Start a conversation with the person, asking them how they’re feeling or telling them you’re worried about them
  • Ask the person if they are thinking of suicide, to help you understand how they’re feeling
  • Ask if you can contact someone who may be able to help them, such as a trained colleague or a crisis line

Non-stigmatised conversations about mental health

IOSH says that it’s also important for companies and trained mental health champions to have a list of trusted services to which they can refer workers at risk. These could include:

IOSH recently urged employers to consider mental health and wellbeing as employees return to the workplace following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

After a survey suggested that 40% of workers feel less resilient now than they did before the pandemic, and that over half feel under pressure to mask mental health challenges as they return to the workplace, IOSH’s Head of Advice and Practice, Duncan Spencer advised:

“We advocate that open and non-stigmatised conversations are proactively arranged by line managers as part of a strong overall mental health and wellbeing strategy.”

Further mental health training and support for the workplace

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading, national training provider delivering a wide and diverse range of training courses.

They can provide training in the fields of health and safety, first aid, fire safety, food hygiene, safeguarding, mental health, health and social care and other specialist subjects.

Their specialist mental health training range includes Understanding Mental HealthMental Health Awareness in the WorkplaceManaging Stress in the WorkplaceAnxiety AwarenessSelf-Harm Awareness and Suicide Awareness.

They can also provide externally accredited trainers to deliver Mental Health First Aid England training courses, including Adult, Youth, Champion and Lite versions.

A trainer from FRT says:

“It is important that employers look at what they can do to promote and support positive mental health and wellbeing among their employees.

“People can be extremely scared to mention the word ‘suicide’ but often it is the culture of silence that poses the greatest risk to people’s safety and mental health. It’s important that we are proactive and training can really help people to feel more confident to offer support to those at risk when they need it the most.”

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

IOSH urges caution as people return to workplaces

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has urged caution over the gradual return of staff to workplaces.

Speaking after the government confirmed that England would move to the final stage of its gradual easing of Covid-19 lockdown measures, IOSH’s Head of Advice and Practice, Duncan Spencer, warned: “Covid-19 still poses a significant threat, so we urge businesses to ensure they continue to do all they can to protect staff from contracting it.”

Ensure a healthy and safe return to work

As the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, spoke out to encourage workers to head back into the office and other workplaces, IOSH advised that businesses be guided by health and safety professionals.

Mr Smith said that risk assessments formed the “starting point” for a safe return to workplaces, “as they can help to identify proportionate controls to protect workers, clients, consumers and communities.”

Advocating continued caution, he added:

“With Covid risks, this might include a reasonable request for people to continue wearing face masks and observe social distancing measures.

“Employers might wish to emulate other socially conscious organisations by asking workers to test themselves regularly, including supplying them with lateral flow test kits.

“It is crucial that any preventative measures are communicated clearly, thereby empowering people to work safely while this disease remains a significant threat.”

Maintain control measures

The (HSE) has issued advice about workplace controls that businesses should maintain despite the removal of lockdown restrictions and social distancing guidance.

Britain’s health and safety watchdog says that organisations must still control the risks of Covid-19 transmission and should continue to review and update their risk assessment.

The following workplace control measures also remain unchanged:

Employers are also advised that communicating with workers and representatives about health and safety matters helps to reduce risks.

The HSE continues to conduct Covid-19 spot checks and inspections to ensure that businesses across the country are managing the risks.

Consider mental health and wellbeing

As a recent survey suggested that 40% of workers feel less resilient now than they did before the pandemic, and that over half feel under pressure to mask mental health challenges as they return to the workplace, transmission of Covid-19 is not the only risk that employers need to manage.

Indeed, Duncan Smith at IOSH agreed that “employers also need to consider the impact of returning to work on people’s mental health and wellbeing, with the possibility that staff may be deeply concerned about returning.”

He added:

“We advocate that open and non-stigmatised conversations are proactively arranged by line managers as part of a strong overall mental health and wellbeing strategy.

“Organisations need to be safe from Covid and safe from the mental health consequences of this pandemic and the impact it has on people’s lives.”

Further training and support for the workplace

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading, national training provider. They deliver over 7,000 courses each year in the fields of health and safety, first aid, fire safety, food hygiene, mental health, health and social care and other special focus topics.

Their diverse portfolio includes training awards in Infection Control, Lone Working, Risk Assessment, Managing and Supervising SafetyManaging Stress in the Workplace and Understanding Mental Health, among many others.

They also offer a portfolio of e-learning training courses, including COVID-19 Infection prevention, identification and control.

A trainer from FRT explains:

“Businesses must ensure they conduct a thorough Covid-19 risk assessment and have effective measures in place for cleaning, hygiene and handwashing, ventilation and protecting vulnerable workers. Continuing measures such as social distancing, working from home and wearing face coverings should also be considered where appropriate.”

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 info@firstresponsetraining.com.

Occupational safety and health leads Covid recovery

The Director of Professional Services at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has commented on how the occupational safety and health (OSH) profession is leading the way in the recovery from Covid-19.

In a commentary featured in the Hays UK Salary and Recruiting Trends Guide 2021, Vanessa Harwood-Whitcher spoke of how OSH professionals had found themselves “front and centre of organisations’ recovery from Covid-19,” saying that leadership figures are turning to the profession for guidance to protect their workers and the future of their businesses.

As we slowly move out of the third national lockdown and the roadmap has been laid out to restarting the economy, many employers want to know how they can restart their operations safely, prevent virus transmission on their site and protect remote workers.

Ms. Harwood-Whitcher cautioned that OSH professionals must also “ensure their employers don’t lose sight of non-Covid risks.”

She added: “To achieve this, OSH professionals must be attuned to how their organisation is run and how OSH can enable it to sustain its future and achieve strategic goals. They must be able to adapt quickly as new risks emerge and provide senior leaders with assurance.”

This rise in demand for OSH expert advice will continue well into 2021 and beyond, she predicts.

As a result, IOSH aims to ensure there is a “significant pool of high-calibre people who can respond.”

They are hoping to achieve this through their Student Membership Scheme, their IOSH Mentoring platform and their Future Leaders community. These initiatives all help people at different stages to build their OSH career.

There is high demand for relevant health and safety skills, and IOSH is looking to help meet this demand by moving their main health and safety training products online.

Ms. Harwood-Whitcher says such measures are “why I am confident our profession can continue to deliver, to protect the futures of organisations and those who work for them.”

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading, national training provider. They deliver over 7,000 courses each year in the fields of health and safety, first aid, fire safety, food hygiene, mental health, health and social care and other special focus topics.

Their diverse portfolio includes training awards in Infection Control, Lone Working, Risk Assessment, Managing Health and Safety, Managing Stress in the Workplace and Understanding Mental Health, among many others.

FRT is also approved to deliver world-renowned IOSH-accredited and certificated training courses such as IOSH Working Safely, IOSH Supervising Safely and IOSH Managing Safely.

They also offer a portfolio of e-learning training courses, including COVID-19 Infection prevention, identification and control.

A trainer from FRT explains: “For too long, health and safety has been considered no more than an administrative burden to employers, but this really highlights how sensible health and safety approaches can really benefit businesses and how they will be instrumental in helping firms build back better after the pandemic.”

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 info@firstresponsetraining.com.

IOSH calls for government to invest in workplace health and safety

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is calling on the government to invest in occupational safety and health (OSH) as it combats the Covid-19 pandemic.

The world’s largest professional health and safety body has submitted proposals to the UK Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review which frame OSH as key to battling the pandemic and supporting workers, businesses and the economy.

They want important government functions to be better resourced in order to protect lives and livelihoods. These functions include the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Work and Health Unit and the Department of Health and Social Care.

IOSH has also proposed ramping up public health awareness campaigns.

They believe that a renewed focus and significant investment in workplace health and safety is not just key as an immediate response to the pandemic, but for effective work in the future.

They explain that, when OSH is managed well, work can be more productive and positive for employee health and wellbeing.

As evidence, IOSH have cited key statistics from the HSE that reveal that there were 4 million cases of work-related ill-health in 2018-19, resulting in 23.5 million working days being lost.

The annual loss to the economy of work-related ill-health is estimated to top £22 billion.

The statistics also show:

  • 13,000 people lost their lives from past exposures at work
  • 602,000 people suffered from work-related stress, depression and anxiety
  • 498,000 people suffered from work-related musculoskeletal disorders

The concern for IOSH is that the human and socio-economic impact of Covid-19 will only add to these figures.

Mental health at work is a significant and growing concern which will surely only be deepened by the pandemic and resulting economic recession.

It’s currently estimated that around 300,000 people lose their jobs each year in Britain as a result of long-term mental ill health. But, IOSH argues, when employers take action and implement mental health interventions, evidence indicates that they can expect to see an average return of £4.20 for every £1 spent on improvement action.

Despite this, only around 39% of private sector employees – and only 21% in small enterprises – have access to OSH services.

IOSH therefore suggests that small and medium businesses should be incentivised to offer high quality OSH and mental health at work services.

They have also advised that government trade deals, major investments, forex trading,  and infrastructure projects – such as plans for broadband provision, green technologies and housing programmes – should have effective OSH principles embedded at the design and agreement stage, stating that this will help support productivity and reliable delivery.

They believe these measures will help support workers and employers, as well as economic recovery.

IOSH Head of Policy and Regulatory Engagement, Richard Jones, said:

“To help address the current Covid-19 crisis and beyond, we call on the Government and HM Treasury to support the urgent action we have proposed to protect lives and livelihoods and improve workforce health and prosperity.

“We know that good work is good for health and wellbeing and that positive feelings about work have been linked to higher productivity and profitability, as well as customer and worker loyalty, and we’re calling for ongoing health and safety commitment, resourcing and capacity-building.”

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

They 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 safety, first aid, fire safety, manual handling, mental health, food hygiene, specialist safety, health and social care and more.

Their health and safety training is mapped to UK standards and legislation and follows HSE guidelines. Based on a common sense, proportionate approach to workplace safety, training helps learners to understand the true benefits of creating a health and safe environment at work.

In addition, FRT can also provide accredited training in Mental Health First Aid and also offer a range of other mental health training courses, including Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace, Understanding Mental Health and Anxiety Awareness.

A trainer from FRT explains:

“We believe in creating safer working environments with people who care, and know that when workers feel safe, valued and protected, they are likely to be happier and more productive at work. Companies with a strong health and safety ethos can not only reduce workplace accidents and downtime, but also see better staff retention rates and increased employee satisfaction.”

For more information on any of the training courses that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or e-mail info@firstresponsetraining.com.