spacebands is a multi-sensor wearable that monitors external, environmental hazards, anticipates potential accidents, and gives real-time data on stress in hazardous environments.
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Workplace health and safety is a vital aspect of any organisation, as it affects the well-being, productivity, and morale of workers and employers alike. However, workplace health and safety is not a static or simple concept, as it is constantly evolving and facing new challenges and opportunities in the dynamic and complex world of work.
In this blog, we will explore some of the changes and trends that will shape the landscape of workplace health and safety in 2024, and how organisations and workers can prepare and adapt to them.
We will cover four main topics: building new relationships with the regulator, the RAAC crisis, leveraging technology such as wearables and IoT, and working from home.
By the end of this blog, you will have a better understanding of the current and future state of workplace health and safety, and what you can do to make a positive difference in your organisation and industry.
Mental health is a key component of overall well-being, and it affects not only individuals, but also organisations and society.
According to the World Health Organization, mental health disorders are among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide, and they cost the global economy an estimated $2.5 trillion per year in lost productivity, absenteeism, and health care expenses.
In the UK, stress, depression, and anxiety account for roughly half of all work-related ill-health cases, and 54% of all working days lost.
These figures highlight the prevalence and impact of poor mental health in the workplace, and the need for employers to take action to support and protect their employees’ mental health.
In 2024, we can expect to see a rising focus on mental health in the workplace, as employers recognise the benefits of investing in the mental health and well-being of their workforce. Some of the trends that will shape the delivery of workforce mental health programs in 2024 are:
By focusing on mental health in the workplace, employers can not only improve the health and happiness of their employees, but also enhance their organisational performance and reputation.
Mental health is not a luxury, but a necessity, and it should be a priority for every employer and employee in 2024 and beyond.
Technology is a powerful driver of change and innovation in the workplace, and it is constantly evolving and creating new opportunities and challenges for organisations and workers.
In 2024, we can expect to see a growing adoption and integration of technology such as wearables and IoT (Internet of Things) in the workplace, which are devices and systems that can collect, communicate, and process data, and enable automation, personalisation, and optimisation of work processes and outcomes.
Some of the benefits and implications of leveraging technology such as wearables and IoT in the workplace are:
However, leveraging technology such as wearables and IoT in the workplace also poses some challenges and risks, such as privacy, security, ethics, and regulation, which need to be addressed and managed effectively.
Organisations and workers should adopt a responsible and ethical approach to using technology in the workplace, by ensuring that the technology is designed and used in a way that respects the rights, dignity, and well-being of all stakeholders, and that the technology is aligned with the values, goals, and standards of the organisation and the society.
Technology such as wearables and IoT can offer many advantages for the workplace, but it is not a silver bullet or a substitute for human intelligence, creativity, and collaboration.
Technology should be seen as a tool and a partner, not a master or a competitor, and it should be used to complement and enhance, not replace or undermine, human work.
By leveraging technology such as wearables and IoT in the workplace, organisations and workers can create a more connected, intelligent, and responsive work environment, and achieve higher levels of performance, innovation, and well-being.
The Building Safety Act 2022 established a new body, the Building Safety Regulator (BSR), to oversee the safety and performance of all buildings in England, with a special focus on higher-risk buildings.
The BSR is part of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and has a range of functions and powers to regulate, enforce, and improve building safety standards.
In this section, we will explain the role and functions of the BSR, discuss its enforcement policy statement and mandatory occurrence reporting system, and provide some tips on how to construct a good relationship with the BSR and comply with the Building Safety Act.
The BSR has two main objectives: to secure the safety of people in and around buildings, and to improve the standard of buildings. To achieve these objectives, the BSR has the following functions:
The BSR also has a duty to facilitate building safety in relation to higher-risk buildings, which means it must take reasonable steps to ensure that the people who are responsible for the design, construction, and occupation of such buildings comply with their duties under the Building Safety Act.
The BSR has published an enforcement policy statement, which sets out the principles and approach that the BSR will follow when carrying out its enforcement functions.
The statement explains the BSR’s enforcement powers, such as issuing compliance and stop notices, imposing civil penalties, and prosecuting offences. It also outlines the factors that the BSR will consider when deciding whether to take enforcement action, such as the seriousness of the breach, the harm or potential harm caused, and the attitude and behaviour of the duty holder.
The BSR has also established a mandatory occurrence reporting system, which requires certain persons to report any occurrences that may affect the safety of a higher-risk building to the BSR. An occurrence is defined as any event or circumstance that has or could have an adverse effect on the safety of a higher-risk building, such as a fire, a structural failure, or a defect in the design or construction of the building.
The BSR will use the information from the reports to monitor and improve building safety, identify trends and risks, and take appropriate action if necessary.
As the BSR is a new regulator with significant powers and responsibilities, it is important for building owners, managers, and professionals to construct a good relationship with the BSR and comply with the Building Safety Act. Here are some tips on how to do so:
By following these tips, you can build a positive and productive relationship with the BSR, and ensure that your buildings are safe and compliant. This will not only benefit you and your organisation, but also the residents and users of your buildings, and the wider public interest.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to working from home and hybrid working.
Working from home and hybrid working can offer many benefits for employees and employers, such as improved work-life balance, reduced commuting costs and emissions, increased productivity and satisfaction, and enhanced resilience and adaptability.
However, working from home and hybrid working also pose some challenges and risks for the health, safety, and well-being of employees, which need to be addressed and managed effectively.
Some of the main health and safety issues that employees may face when working from home and hybrid working are:
Employers have the same legal duty to ensure the health and safety of their employees when they are working from home and hybrid working as they do when they are working in the workplace.
Employers should provide clear policies and procedures, adequate training and equipment, regular communication and feedback, and reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities or specific needs.
Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) is a lightweight material that was used mostly in flat roofing, but also in floors and walls, between the 1950s and 1990s.
It is a cheaper alternative to standard concrete, is quicker to produce and easier to install. It is aerated, or “bubbly”, like an Aero chocolate bar. But it is less durable and has a lifespan of around 30 years.
Its structural behaviour differs significantly from traditional reinforced concrete. Moreover, it is susceptible to structural failure when exposed to moisture. The bubbles can allow water to enter the material. If that happens, any rebar reinforcing RAAC can also decay, rust and weaken. Because of this, RAAC is often coated with another material, such as bitumen on roofing panels.
But this material can also degrade. The Standing Committee on Structural Safety (SCOSS) noted that: "Although called ‘concrete’, RAAC is very different from traditional concrete and, because of the way in which it was made, much weaker."
According to Loughborough University, there are tens of thousands of these structural panels already in use and "many are showing signs of wear and tear and deterioration".
The Health and Safety Executive says RAAC is now beyond its lifespan and may "collapse with little or no notice". This poses a serious risk to the safety of people in and around buildings that contain RAAC, especially schools, hospitals, and other public buildings.
In August 2023, the Department for Education issued new guidance on the management of RAAC in education settings, which forced over a hundred schools to vacate buildings known to contain RAAC and seek alternative venues to begin the autumn term.
The RAAC crisis is not limited to education settings, however. Numerous public buildings built between the 1950s and 1990s contain RAAC, including libraries, council offices and even court buildings. Harrow Crown Court has been closed for up to nine months while RAAC is removed and replaced to ensure the safety and stability of the building.
The RAAC crisis is becoming increasingly widespread, and it appears likely to follow asbestos and aluminium composite cladding as the next problematic construction material.
The first step is to identify and assess the presence and condition of RAAC in the building. This can be done by visual inspection, sampling, testing, or consulting original drawings and records.
The second step is to develop and implement a management plan, which may include monitoring, maintenance, repair, or replacement of RAAC.
The third step is to communicate and consult with the relevant stakeholders, such as building owners, managers, users, regulators, and professionals.
The fourth step is to review and update the management plan regularly, and report any occurrences or incidents to the authorities. The Institution of Structural Engineers provides further guidance on the investigation and assessment of RAAC.
The RAAC crisis is a serious and urgent issue that requires immediate and proactive action from all parties involved. By following the steps outlined above, the risk of RAAC collapse can be reduced and managed effectively.
However, this is not a permanent solution, as RAAC is inherently weak and prone to deterioration. The ultimate goal should be to replace RAAC with more durable and reliable materials, and to ensure that the lessons learned from the RAAC crisis are applied to the future design and construction of buildings.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of what we expect to the focus to be on in 2024 for Health & Safety professionals, but they are some of the major trends that will be looked at this year.
Other trends include a focus on personalised PPE - more choice for women, different religions (PPE hijabs) and PPE for men with big bushy beards. Occupational health support is another trending topic in the H&S world for 2024. We expect to see an increase in prevention strategies, as prevention is better than cure.
If you agree with us that prevention is better than cure, maybe it's time to book a demo to see what spacebands hazard protection wearable device and analytics platform can bring to your company - spoiler, it will decrease your accident rate and improve worker morale.