Firms warned not to ‘sleepwalk’ into health and safety nightmare

Following reports that job vacancies in the UK have hit a record high of 1 million, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has warned employers dealing with staff shortages not to “sleepwalk” into a health and safety nightmare.

The leading professional body for occupational safety and health said that “worker shortages do not and should not mean worker neglect.”

The global professional body is concerned that the drive to maintain productivity levels in understaffed companies could lead to the protection of workers being compromised.

Checklist for worker safety

IOSH has produced a checklist for businesses coping with worker shortages to ensure they are managing both workers’ physical safety and their stress and anxiety.

The checklist includes:

  • Resource planning and ensuring tasks can still be completed safely
  • Policies and procedures and whether they remain viable in the wake of staff shortages
  • Risk assessments and considering whether these should be updated to account for the shortage of workers
  • Safe systems of work / safe operating procedures and whether these account for the shortage of workers
  • Cross training workers to carry out different roles and cover worker shortages
  • Ensuring all safety checks are still fulfilled and that there is limited risk to workers
  • Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and how this is impacted by a shortage of workers
  • Keeping workers informed about staff shortages and included in discussions and plans

Invest in appropriate training

IOSH’s Ryan Exley said:

“Whether organisations are finding it difficult to recruit, or they’re being challenged financially and need to make cuts in expenditure, it’s vital for their business/organisation and their staff that they ensure those who work for them are kept safe.

“The last thing we want is to see any employer dealing with worker shortages ‘sleepwalking’ into some health and safety nightmare scenario, where ‘getting by’ with a reduced workforce then morphs into a ‘new normal’ that puts their people in long-term danger.

“Continuing to operate with fewer workers may maximise profits but could build up pressure to cut corners and compromise on safety, seriously damaging workers’ mental health in the meantime.”

Meanwhile, IOSH Head of Health and Safety, Ruth Wilkinson, said firms needed to continue to invest in health and safety and appropriate training despite any staffing issues.

She explained:

“There should be no compromise on health and safety, with the prevention of harm and protection of workers being paramount.”

She added that firms must maintain good risk management and continue to: “Provide the appropriate training, such as staff inductions, competency requirements and refreshers, making sure staff are aware of the health and safety arrangements and their responsibilities; good communication and awareness is key.

“It’s always important to ensure there’s a planned and risk-controlled approach to prevention, focused on safe people, safe systems, safe workplaces and safe equipment.”

Health and safety training and support

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.

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 in the future.”

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.

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.

HSE Chair reflects on 12 months of Covid

The Chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Sarah Newton, has shared her reflections on the past year, which saw Britain and its workplaces battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

Launching the HSE’s new regular website blog, Ms. Newton, who became Chair of Britain’s health and safety watchdog in August last year, explained that her and her colleagues would be publishing blogs sharing their thoughts on a wide range of topics related to HSE’s workplace safety mission.

Speaking of the 12 months since April 2020, she admits it’s “safe to say that it has been a year unlike any of us have ever experienced.”

Ms. Newton explained that, as Britain gradually emerges from lockdown and the pandemic, the HSE will be applying “renewed vigour to our work enabling Covid-secure workplaces. Drawing on what we are continuously learning from the data and science. With a focus on controlling risk, from identifying it to mitigating for it.”

She confirmed that the vast majority of businesses and workplaces were adhering to government guidelines and were making prompt changes to the way they work in order to keep employees and other members of the public as safe as possible.

Where enforcement action has been needed, however, Ms. Newton is clear that the HSE has been decisive in taking that action.

The regulator has been at the heart of the government response to the coronavirus pandemic in Great Britain, working alongside Public Health bodies and local authorities. It has ensured, through spot checks, inspections and advice, that workplaces are doing everything possible to provide Covid-secure working environments.

Ms. Newton says:

“HSE takes the Covid pandemic and the welfare of workers incredibly seriously. Of course, we do. That is written into our DNA and, since 1974, that has been our mission.”

She summarised some of the actions taken over the past 12 months to help make workplaces Covid-secure. These included:

  • Shifting their organisational resources onto Covid-related work and utilising an additional £14 million in funding to add new services to support workers and employers
  • Completing over 165,700 Covid-19 spot checks and responding to over 210,000 concerns
  • Carrying out around 2,000 workplace checks each day
  • Supporting Public Health bodies with 646 reported outbreaks of Covid-19
  • Targeting spot checks in those industries where workers are most vulnerable to transmission risks
  • Leading a Covid-19 national core study, funded by the Government, on transmission of Covid-19 in the environment. This encompasses workplaces, transport and other public settings. The aim is to answer essential policy and operational questions around the pandemic.

The Chair of the HSE concluded:

“All of the above, and more, has taken place against a backdrop of HSE continuing to regulate traditional, non-Covid related occupational health and safety in a multitude of industries.

“As well as setting up the new Building Safety Regulator and dealing with the complex regulatory responsibilities associated with the end of the EU transition period and the intake of new staff that these have entailed. I think that’s a real achievement everyone in HSE can be proud of.”

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.

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

A trainer from FRT explains: “Businesses have lots to consider right now; they must ensure they are keeping people as safe as possible and minimising the risk of transmission of Covid-19, following government guidelines and effectively implementing suitable control measures. It is great that the HSE has been there to provide advice, guidance and take action where needed.”

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 partners with WHO to protect lives and livelihoods

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has partnered with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to provide free online learning to help businesses and workers develop their knowledge around Covid-19.

The two organisations have developed a new course which teaches people about preventing transmission of Covid-19 and managing the risks of returning to work and remote working.

They say it has been created with the aim of “protecting lives and livelihoods.”

The free online training can be accessed by anyone across the world on the WHO online learning platform.

The IOSH and WHO first joined forces last year in order to support businesses, workers and safety and health professionals in managing the risks posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

IOSH’s Chief Executive, Bev Messinger, said they were “delighted” to have worked with the WHO to develop the training modules.

She explained: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the way we work, as well as the way we live.

“Many organisations have opted for remote working, although this has been beneficial for employers and workers, it is something which can create significant risks, not least around mental health.

“Organisations are also planning their recovery and have been doing for some time. This includes how they can allow people back into workplaces in a safe way, ensuring that the risks of Covid-19 transmission are managed. Some organisations, of course, have had to continue operating in workplaces and we have supported them too.”

She said the training modules would “support people in organisatons of all sizes, including small and medium enterprises and start-ups who might otherwise find it challenging to access such training. Across these organisations, they will enhance the way workers are protected and, as a result, protect lives and livelihoods.”

IOSH has created modules on Safer Teleworking and Reopening your workplace safely, while peer reviewing the other training modules.

The Safer teleworking module focuses on issues such as isolation and work-life balance.

The full course includes interactive content and is available on the WHO’s online learning platform.

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.

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

A trainer from FRT explains: “Businesses have lots to consider right now; they must ensure they are keeping people as safe as possible and minimising the risk of transmission of Covid-19, following government guidelines and effectively implementing suitable control measures.

“But they must also think about their employee’s mental health and wellbeing. With the stress and anxiety of the pandemic, the potential isolation of working from home and the strain of national lockdowns, many of their workers may be struggling with low mood, stress, depression or anxiety.

“Health and safety duties for employers are not limited to an employee’s physical health and safety – they also include the responsibility to support their mental health.

“That means it’s not just crucial that employers understand Covid-19, its routes of transmission and how to minimise the risk – as well as other physical safety considerations – they should also understand how they can promote and support positive mental health and wellbeing throughout their organisation.

“A range of training is needed to help foster a truly safe and healthy workforce.”

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.