February 11, 2013

Health must be given equal status to safety, demands TUC

SHP online reports on the TUC's new ten point health and safety manifesto, highlighting the headline points.

One of the key recommendations is that much greater importance must be given to occupational-health prevention, with stronger regulations and enforcement to stop workers being made ill by their work.

 Although the TUC accepts that the HSE and local authorities should concentrate activities on those businesses where inspections will be most effective, it insists that no business should be exempt from unannounced inspections – as is now the case for many so-called ‘low-risk’ workplaces, such as offices and shops. 

By classifying these workplaces as ‘low-risk’, the TUC accuses the Government of only focusing on injury figures and missing the bigger picture. It points out that supermarket checkout staff are particularly susceptible to back injuries; shop workers can come into contact with violent or abusive customers and other individuals; and workers in the education and health and social-care sectors can suffer high levels of stress.

Closely connected to this recommendation is the TUC’s call for strong regulation aimed at preventing stress, musculoskeletal disorders, bullying and violence, as well as greater emphasis overall on occupational-health measures. If all workers were given free access to health surveillance and occupational-health provision, the savings to the economy – through lower sickness absence and a reduction in benefits payments – would far exceed the cost, claims the TUC.