Occupational Health and Well-Being
People spend 60% of their waking hours at work; employers fail to promote good health and the British workforce is unhealthy. During 2007–2008, 29 million working days were lost through ill health, of which 16 million was due to physical ill health and 13 million due to mental ill health. Lifestyles have changed over the last two decades, resulting in what is commonly termed lifestyle diseases. These are diseases brought about by the relationship between people and their environment, for example, those associated with diet, alcohol consumption, smoking, drug abuse and different life stressors. These types of diseases are chronic in nature and can be very difficult to cure; however, they are preventable. Over the last 25 years, life expectancy has increased considerably. In 1980–1982 life expectancy for men was approximately 72 years and for women 77 years. Compare this with figures for 2005–2007 where the life expectancy for men is 77 years and for women 82 years. It is a fact that people are living longer. In 2007, the number of older people in Great Britain was higher than the number under the age of 16 years. Combine this with the recently implemented age discrimination laws and what this shows is that we have an ageing workforce. However, this workforce is not necessarily in good health or free from illness (Source: National Statistics). The above evidence highlights the need for employers to ensure the health and well-being of their workforce and that this is as much a priority as is their safety. This will not only demonstrate a commitment to employees but also have financial benefits for the business by reducing sickness and absence. Employers can help improve the health and well-being of their workforce by actively investing in workplace initiatives that promote good health.
- Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974:
Employers have a general duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably possible, the health, safety and welfare of all employees. The general duty covers the physical and psychological well-being of employees and the individual needs of each employee should be considered.
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999:
Employers to make suitable and sufficient assessments of risks to health and safety of employees to identify the measures needed to remove the risks or reduce to an acceptable level. This includes controlling workplace risks by investing in their health and well-being.
- Working Time Regulations 1998 (as amended):
Excessive working hours are a contributory factor to a person’s health and well-being. Employers must organise and manage working hours to enable employees to maintain a healthy and fulfilling work life balance.
- Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006:
Older employees must be provided with the same health and well-being opportunities, including statutory sick pay, in the same way as other employees.
Quite simply, occupational health and well-being is a combination of physical, social, intellectual and emotional fitness of ‘people associated with work’. The range of people associated with work includes the existing workforce, new employees and those returning to work following a period of absence. Employers should therefore consider all groups when devising health and well-being programmes. It is understood that if a person is happy, contented and comfortable with their life, then they will be in good health and this is what employers should be aiming to achieve when devising programmes.
Mortality rates and lifestyles are important factors to consider when determining causes of ill health. These alone have brought about significant changes in society which have a direct impact on the health and well-being of employees. In addition, the following factors are particularly relevant and need to be considered by employers:
- Unsafe working practices
- Poor ergonomic workplace design
- Ineffective accident/significant event analysis procedure
- No assessment of health risks
- Inadequate infection control procedures
- Lack of safety and health awareness training
- Poor safety culture
- Inefficient and inappropriate heating
- Lack of natural light and unsuitable artificial lighting
- Poor ventilation
- Uncontrolled management of waste
- Poor housekeeping
- Organisational and professional
- Unachievable targets
- Advances in technology
- Working times and patterns
- Change process
- Unworkable policies
- Customer demands and expectations
- Professional requirements
- Management style
- Poor communication
- Ineffective leadership
- Poor resource management
- Blame culture
The above-mentioned factors can have a detrimental effect on the health and well-being of employees. All are preventable and should be analysed as part of the management health and well-being programme.
The government review, Working for a HealthierTomorrow, undertaken by Dame Carol Black and published in 2008, showe/>