Maxwell Stephens

Health and Safety in the Workplace

Facilities Project Director

I expect most of you are aware of the Health and Safety Executive. If not, they are a national independent watchdog for work-related health, safety and illness. They work to make sure that workplaces in Britain are safe places to work. Their effort helps to save lives and reduce the number of serious injuries and illnesses. They are a reliable source of thought leadership in the health and safety space and release a number of working papers and strategies.


According to the HSE, the annual costs of new cases of work related illness in the UK in 2014/2015 (excluding longer latency illnesses such as cancer) is £9.3 billion. The agency believes that early prevention is key to the reduction of ill health at work. To do that, employers must engage with employees to understand the risks within the workplace and agree mitigation strategies. This is a process that must be worked upon by the employees and employers in a proactive, structured, and periodic fashion. In many organisations, the day-to-day responsibility for health and safety concerns resides with the facilities management team and it is a fundamental responsibility that businesses cannot afford to ignore. 


The HSE released a new strategy in late 2016 highlighting specific areas that need to be addressed. The most reported cause of occupational ill health is musculoskeletal disorders, accounting for 41%. It also results in 34% of days lost due to ill health. Unsurprisingly, the second is work related stress, which accounts for 37% of work related ill health cases, and 45% of sick days taken. Fairly surprising to me was that occupational lung disease continues to be prevalent, causing an estimated 12,000 deaths per year.  In the coming months, we should see recommendations for positive change flowing from the HSE.


Health and safety at work will continue to be an interesting topic, with the pendulum of responsibility continuously moving. In an altruistic world, the employer would want to keep the workforce safe as it cared about the wellbeing of its employees. Unfortunately, there are many organisations that prioritise profit over and above health and safety, and this is where legislation, and bodies such as the HSE come into play. 


Peter Forshaw – Managing Director, Maxwell Stephens


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