Protecting worker’s Health & Safety is the key to the Workplace of the Future

  • The Health and Safety Authority’s “The Future of Workers and Work” Summit will be told how new developments in work practices such as remote working poses questions for employers about how best to manage employees’ long-term health and safety
  • More than 150 people attending the Summit will hear from national and international experts on how the changing world of work will impact workers in the future
  • The Health and Safety Authority is encouraging all employers to make health and safety a core part of their business strategy in 2020 and beyond
  • The Summit comes as the Government’s Future Jobs Ireland provides a framework of focused ambitions which will form a key part of Ireland’s future economic agenda over the medium term.

More than 150 delegates attending the Health and Safety Authority’s “The Future of Workers and Work” Summit in Dublin will hear how new developments in work practices such as remote working poses questions for employers about how best to manage the long-term health and safety of staff. Improving employees’ work-life balance brings with it challenges but effectively managing the health and safety of an employee, wherever they work, will create positive benefits. 

Experts from the European Commission, the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO), the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), and employers’ group Ibec, will explore the challenges, opportunities and benefits from future trends on how we will work and address health and safety issues. 

The Summit comes as occupational health and safety legislation marks 30 years of implementation in Ireland. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) was established under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act in 1989.  As a regulator, the Authority provides advice and support but also inspects and enforces the legislation.

“Our workplaces are safer and healthier now because of health and safety regulations, but the world of work is changing rapidly due to advancements in technology and expectations of where and how we can work,” said Dr Sharon McGuinness, Chief Executive Officer of the Health and Safety Authority.

“Many of these changes will enhance health and safety but some will also see an employees’ health and safety be potentially put at risk. For example, advances in technology have made ‘remote working’ a much more viable option for many enterprises, and not surprisingly the flexibility that this brings has become a very popular and attractive option for workers and businesses.  As enterprises seek to adopt more flexible approaches to work, many are still grappling with how to fulfil their legal duty of providing a healthy and safe workplace.  If your employees are working from home or from an airport lounge, as an employer, you are still responsible for their health and safety.  Our National Summit will discuss the practical challenges that non-traditional working environments are now raising such as how an employer can manage the health and safety of staff working from their kitchen tables?”

It is estimated that more than 200,000 people in Ireland are working from home, or from a co-working space. The HSA is encouraging all employers to make health and safety a core part of their business strategy in 2020 and beyond. It is advising businesses to review their Safety Statements to ensure Health and Safety management and policies are in line with how their workplaces are configured for these new realities.

“We’ve seen a steady increase in companies implementing and adapting wellbeing programmes as part of their business strategies and this is greatly welcomed. However, companies are reminded that talking about employee wellbeing without putting required health and safety policies into practice is not enough for their future business sustainability. Free fruit or office yoga sessions are all positive steps but they alone are not going to protect your employees’ health and safety throughout their working life. What is really needed is a more holistic approach to manage health and safety through the sharing of best practice to manage the risks from new forms of working. Evidence has shown if you manage workers health and safety, you will have a productive and satisfied workforce that will be central to a successful business now and in the future,” said Dr McGuinness.

Ireland’s ageing workforce and the impact of the gig economy will also be discussed at the summit.

One in five Irish workers is now aged 50 or older and the number is on the rise. New ESRI research published recently on behalf of the Authority found older workers are more likely to suffer a fatal injury, and this is the case regardless of the sector in which the worker is employed. Older workers are also more likely to experience a work related illness rather than an injury.

Chairman of the HSA, Tom Coughlan, is urging all employers to implement safety and health policies designed with the unique requirements of older workers in mind.

“In order to ensure workers can safely remain in the workforce for longer, we need to consider the risks which could impact negatively on their occupational health and safety. This is a matter that requires our current attention to ensure that the workplace is fit for purpose as workers age. It is too late to start looking at hazards and risks when someone turns 55. We need early and proactive training and life-long education about one’s health, safety and wellbeing. Continuous effort by employers can help ensure that those entering the workforce now can work productively and safely into the future,” said Mr. Coughlan. 

“I would encourage all businesses to check out the HSA’s BeSMART Safety Statement and Risk Assessment Tool for free on our website, www.BeSmart.ie,” he added.

The Summit, comes as the Government’s Future Jobs Ireland provides a framework of focused ambitions which will form a key part of Ireland’s future economic agenda over the medium term.

MC of ‘‘The Future of Workers and Work’ Summit is journalist, broadcaster, and author Richard Curran. For more information visit www.HSA.ie

Press release accessed from HSA website: https://www.hsa.ie/eng/news_events_media/news/press_releases_2019/protecting_worker%E2%80%99s_health_safety_is_the_key_to_the_workplace_of_the_future.html