UK Publishes Plan to Reduce Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses

The UK has a new strategic plan to reduce work-related injuries and illnesses by targeting certain problems such as workplace stress and falls.

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The UK Health and Safety Commission (HSC) has released its Strategic Plan 2001/04, which sets out the key priorities for reducing work-related injuries and illnesses over the next three years. The plan provides a new framework for tackling health and safety, focusing on national targets for reducing work-related injuries and illnesses.

"Good health and safety practice must be an integral part of company culture - responsibility starts at the top, in the board room and with the chair or chief executive. The key to achieving success is partnership between management, workers and their representatives, for them to work together in order to achieve sustainable improvements in working practices," said HSC Chair Bill Callaghan.

He said the plan represents "a brand new way of working" for the HSC, adding that the plan was developed in "close consultation with all interested parties." He noted that there was general agreement about the priorities included in the plan.

In the plan, the HSC chose eight programs that cover hazards or sectors of industry where major improvements are most needed. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the UK equivalent to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, will focus its activity for the next three years in these priority areas. The eight priority areas are falls from heights, workplace transportation, musculoskeletal disorders, work-related stress, agriculture, construction, health services, and slips and trips.

The HSC and HSE hope that by targeting these areas, the government will be able to reach certain goals, among them:

  • Reducing the number of work days lost per 100, 000 workers from work-related injuries and illnesses by 30 percent by 2010;
  • Reducing the incidence rate of fatal and major injury incidents by 10 percent by 2010;
  • Reducing the incidence rate of cases of work-related ill health by 20 percent by 2010; and
  • Achieving half of each improvement target by 2004.

Other priorities listed in the plan include ensuring an effective regulatory regime in the major hazard industries; continuing to secure compliance with health and safety law; and improving health and safety legislation and guidance.

"We must maintain our focus on the right issues in the years ahead so that we can create a safer and healthier working environment," said Callaghan. "This can only be done through frank, constructive dialogue between all those responsible for securing the health and safety performance improvements we need to see."

He said the eight programs were chosen because the government feels they are the areas where improvement is most needed and where HSE activities can be most effective. However, noted Callaghan, "The primary responsibility for the health and safety of workers remains with employers - they have a legal and moral duty to ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to safeguard the well-being of those in their employment, as well as members of the public whose health and safety may be affected by their activities."

The HSC is continuing to seek the views of stakeholders and Callaghan says it is important that they play an active part, calling the strategic plan "an evolving document" that requires ongoing input from the public.

Plan 2001/2004'' and the Summary are also available on the Internet at www.hse.gov.uk/action/content/strat0104.htm

Those wishing to comment on the Strategic Plan should do so in writing to Robert Vaughan, HSE Planning Efficiency and Finance Division, 9SW, Rose Court, London, SE1 9HS. Email: [email protected]

by Sandy Smith

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