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Next UK Government cannot ignore emerging risks

Date posted
10 June 2024
Type
Opinion
Author
Keith Hole
Estimated reading time
3 minute read

In the second of our blog series from OSH professionals in the run-up to the General Election, Keith Hole, of The Safety Man, looks at how workers can be protected from new and emerging risks.

So much has happened since the last UK General Election in 2019. We had the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK officially left the European Union and climate change has accelerated.

Those are just three examples which immediately spring to mind. A lot of this has impacted on work, some of it on the health and safety of people at work.

As we look ahead to the coming General Election, there are a number of key health and safety-related things to consider, many of them captured in IOSH’s manifesto Safer, healthier, happier. I wanted to focus on what the new and emerging risks are which can potentially impact on people at work.

High on the list are psychosocial hazards which are being created by changing workplaces. Take remote working, for example. There are blurring lines between work and personal life, increased isolation, and a lack of ergonomics in home offices which can lead to stress, burnout, and musculoskeletal disorders from incorrect workstations and working areas.

We must also consider a reduction in transactional movement between tasks, commuting, and walking from office to office, leading to a more sedentary work environment.

Added to this are changing work structures. We have the rise of the gig economy and non-traditional work arrangements which can mean less job security, fewer benefits, and unclear lines of responsibility, all of which can have a negative impact on people’s mental health. The UK Government has looked to address this with the PPE regulations requiring Limb B workers (those working on a casual non-contract basis) to be afforded the same protection as those directly employed.

We’ve all heard about new technologies and how they are changing our lives, including how we work. But there are potential OSH implications which need to be considered. While robots can take on dangerous tasks, human-robot interaction needs careful planning to avoid accidents. Additionally, job displacement due to automation can cause stress and uncertainty, as has been highlighted by the BBC.

There are also demographic shifts in the workforce. We are seeing people work longer, creating a need for ergonomic adjustments to prevent musculoskeletal issues, and the requirement to manage chronic health conditions. There may be the need for specific guidance on these areas, such as the one released by the British Standards Institute on menopause.

On the flip side of the coin, younger generations are entering the workforce and they often have very specific needs. Their lack of experience and the fact they’re still developing physically and mentally means they may need to have tailored approaches.

The final issue I wanted to consider is that of the environment. Climate change is a very real risk, with extreme weather events and rising temperatures creating new hazards, especially for outdoor workers. Climate change therefore needs to be considered much more in risk assessments and management systems.

Meanwhile, the drive for a greener economy may also create some new unforeseen risks.

There is so much to consider, much more than I can fit in this blog. It is crucial that whoever forms the next Government takes new and emerging health and safety risks seriously, to ensure people are protected at work.

Our General Election manifesto

Learn more about our five clear calls to action for the next Government – and why they’re needed for a safer, healthier and happier future.

Last updated: 10 June 2024

Keith Hole

Job role
Founder of The Safety Man Consulting Ltd
Company
CFIOSH

Themes

  • People and workforce
  • Technology and AI

Topics

  • building standards
  • Government urged to protect workers
  • Fit note reform
  • The wait is over, it’s time to get to work