In 2016, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) produced its "Helping Great Britain work well strategy" setting out the priority issues on which it will focus over the next five years. One of these is highlighting and tackling the costs of work-related ill health.
Issues of safety can often be more readily apparent and so more likely to be addressed than ill-health. Frequently we have seen duty holders considering ill-health issues only once they have manifested rather than intervening early. Common issues across lots of industry sectors include noise induced hearing loss, respiratory problems associated with dust and/or chemical exposure, musculoskeletal disorders and stress.
As the lines between work and lifestyle continue to blur as people change the way in which they work, employers are required to consider health risks very broadly. Multiple factors contribute to an employee's health and well-being, employers should be aware of such factors and how they may affect individuals whilst at work.
Having identified ill-health as an issue, as well as publicity and education, we can expect the HSE to use its enforcement powers to send a message to duty holders. Where previously only certain industries and health conditions may have been subject to HSE investigation, we anticipate that the HSE's scope will broaden, bringing into focus new issues under the category of ill health.
In terms of enforcement, the fines landscape should become a little clearer and more consistent this year as further cases pass through the courts under the sentencing guidelines implemented last February. We expect that fines will increase as the courts move away from previous precedents as they become more confident in using the guidelines. We have already seen some large fines, such as the Alton Towers fine of £5 million, but these have not been at the top of the possible range.
More than ever your New Year’s resolution should be to review how you manage safety and health.