Opinion

Wellbeing investment: well worth it

shelley-frost
Executive director - policy, IOSH

I spoke to an apprentice recently about his couple of years of working for a manufacturer. He was hoping for a long career there, he said, because he felt “cared for” by a company that was taking his health and wellbeing seriously. 

“The company have really looked after me and that makes me want to do my best for them so I have worked really hard in delivering my projects beyond what was expected” he added.

This young man’s safety and health is clearly a priority for his employer, and the business will benefit from an enthused, productive individual who not only works hard, but also tells people like me what a great company it is to work for. He has done his employer’s reputation no harm at all.

In that brief conversation at the recent The Manufacturer MX Awards, he has personified the value organisations gain from making the safety, health and wellbeing of their employees a priority. That awards ceremony, in Birmingham, was an impressive showcase of the lengths employers are going to in that sector to nurture and develop their workforces.

It was also clear that manufacturing, like other sectors, is generating that kind of positive response from its employees by turning more and more attention towards health and wellbeing. During my few days as a judge for TMMX Awards, I witnessed some inspiring examples of businesses supporting employees in an array of health areas.

Supported by an informed safety and health profession, companies big and small talked about their workforces being their greatest assets and, with relatively small investment, they are delivering health programmes that are bringing people together. Staff, motivated by caring work cultures, are boosting productivity and growth throughout manufacturing.

In other sectors too, IOSH and its members are working with businesses to promote the occupational health and wellbeing agenda.

I have been fortunate enough to be part of the Construction Health Leaders Group (CHLG), which is generating a new call to action for the industry in the UK to tackle the health issues faced by the workers in the industry.  Figures show that 100 times more UK construction workers die from occupational disease than from accidents and the CHLG members appreciate the urgency of tackling this issue, and not just to keep the regulator at bay or fulfil a moral obligation. They recognise that by working together they have the potential to reduce the burden of ill-health, which not only affects the workers and their families but is also a cost to the industry and to society as a whole.    

By the time you have read this, the CHLG will have held a Chief Executives’ Construction Health Summit in which CEOs representing the various parts of the industry will commit it to a healthier future.  The hard bit is yet to come – we need to take action – and this will be followed up with the OSH leaders in April 2016.

I hope that this is one of many ”call to action” programmes  IOSH is asked to support.  We will continue to focus on occupational health in 2016 – in spring we will launch the next element of our No Time to Lose  cancer campaign, and thanks to all those supporting us in delivering the information, advice and support to many people across the world so far.

For IOSH, raising awareness and improving standards in occupational health is a key priority and we will look to commission more research, provide advice to members and support industry initiatives throughout the year to do our bit to help reduce the many millions of cases of ill health caused or made worse by work worldwide.

By doing this, we can help to ensure that the young apprentice I spoke to and many more like him have a long, healthy and productive working life ahead of them.

 

Shelley Frost is executive director - policy at IOSH. She was formerly head of sustainability at Aggregate Industries UK and has held a number of senior positions in the health and safety and sustainability arenas, from regulatory, policy and strategy to operational management.

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