Changes and Trends in Workplace Health & Safety in 2024

Changes and Trends in Workplace Health & Safety in 2024

Introduction

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.

Construction site safety talk

Rising Focus on Mental Health in the Workplace in 2024

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:

  • Personalisation of care: Employees will have more options and preferences for accessing mental health care, such as in-person, video, or text therapy, digital cognitive behavioural therapy, or virtual group support. Employers will offer programs that cater to the diverse needs and preferences of their employees, and allow them to choose providers who align with their race, ethnicity, language, gender identity, experience, and lifestyle.
  • Concierge navigation: Employees will have access to dedicated and trained professionals who can guide them through the available mental health resources and services, and help them find the best fit for their needs and goals. Employers will partner with programs that provide concierge navigation, which can improve engagement, satisfaction, and outcomes for employees.
  • Integration of services: Employees will benefit from a holistic and coordinated approach to mental health care, which integrates different services and providers, such as employee assistance programs, occupational health, primary care, and specialist care. Employers will facilitate the integration of services, which can enhance the quality and continuity of care, and reduce fragmentation and duplication.
  • Data-driven decision making: Employees will have access to data and feedback that can help them monitor and improve their mental health and well-being, such as self-assessments, progress reports, and outcome measures. Employers will use data and analytics to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of their mental health programs, and to identify areas for improvement and innovation.
  • Culture of support and inclusion: Employees will feel valued and supported by their employers, managers, and colleagues, and will have a safe and positive work environment that promotes mental health and well-being. Employers will foster a culture of support and inclusion, which can reduce stigma and discrimination, and increase awareness and understanding of mental health issues.

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.

Evolution of Occupational Health: From Safety to Well-being

Leveraging Technology - Wearables and IoT

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:

  • Enhanced health and safety: Wearables and IoT can help monitor and improve the health and safety of workers, especially in high-risk or remote environments, by providing real-time feedback, alerts, and interventions. For example, wearables can track workers’ vital signs, location, and exposure to hazards, and IoT can control the temperature, lighting, and ventilation of the workspace, and detect and prevent accidents or emergencies.
  • Increased productivity and efficiency: Wearables and IoT can help optimize and streamline work tasks, by providing access to information, guidance, and support, and by automating or augmenting human capabilities. For example, wearables can enable hands-free communication, collaboration, and learning, and IoT can enable smart scheduling, inventory management, and quality control.
  • Improved engagement and satisfaction: Wearables and IoT can help enhance the engagement and satisfaction of workers, by providing personalized and tailored experiences, feedback, and rewards, and by fostering a culture of innovation and empowerment. For example, wearables can enable gamification, coaching, and recognition, and IoT can enable customization, flexibility, and autonomy.

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.

wearable and IoT technology improving health & safety

Building New Relationships with the BSR

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 role and functions of the BSR

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:

  • Regulating higher-risk buildings, which are high-rise residential buildings with at least 7 floors or 18 metres in height, and at least 2 residential units, as well as care homes and hospitals during their design and construction phases
  • Raising safety standards of all buildings by making and enforcing building regulations, promoting competence and organisational capability within the sector, and facilitating improvement in the performance of building control bodies and professionals
  • Helping professionals in design, construction, and building control to improve their competence by setting up a new system of registration and oversight, and establishing a committee on industry competence
  • Keeping the safety and standard of buildings under review by conducting research, collecting and analysing data, and publishing reports and guidance
  • Engaging with residents and other stakeholders by establishing a residents’ panel, providing information and advice, and handling complaints and whistleblowing

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 enforcement policy statement and the mandatory occurrence reporting system

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.

Tips on how to construct a good relationship with the BSR and comply with the Building Safety Act

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:

  • Be proactive and cooperative: communicate with the BSR regularly, provide accurate and timely information, seek advice and guidance when needed, and respond to requests and feedback promptly and positively
  • Be transparent and accountable: disclose any issues or concerns that may affect building safety, report any occurrences as soon as possible, and take responsibility for your actions and decisions
  • Be compliant and consistent: follow the building regulations and the BSR’s standards and requirements, implement the BSR’s recommendations and directions, and maintain and update your records and documents
  • Be respectful and constructive: treat the BSR and its staff with courtesy and professionalism, respect the BSR’s role and authority, and provide constructive feedback and suggestions

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.

Building Safety Regulator - HSE

Safety Beyond the Workplace

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:

  • Ergonomic hazards: Employees may not have a suitable and comfortable workstation at home, which can cause musculoskeletal disorders, eye strain, headaches, and fatigue.
  • Psychosocial hazards: Employees may experience stress, anxiety, isolation, loneliness, or burnout when working from home and hybrid working, due to factors such as lack of social interaction, blurred boundaries between work and personal life, increased workload and expectations, reduced support and supervision, and difficulty in switching off from work.
  • Environmental hazards: Employees may be exposed to hazards in their home environment, such as fire, electric shock, slips, trips, and falls, which can cause injuries or damage to property.
  • Cybersecurity hazards: Employees may be vulnerable to cyberattacks, data breaches, or identity theft when working from home and hybrid working, due to factors such as unsecured networks, devices, or applications, phishing emails, malware, or ransomware.

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.

Risk assessment required on this posture

The RAAC Crisis Continues to be a Major Issue

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.

What can be done to prevent or mitigate the risk of RAAC collapse?

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.

RAAC 'not widespread in social housing' says regulator | News | Housing  Today

Conclusion

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.

Andy Smith is a Content Writer for spacebands

Mike Warren

Marketing Executive

Mike is a colourful character who is classically trained to play guitar (he also plays trumpet at a very average level)

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