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Stop health and safety standards slipping, urges IOSH

06 September 2023

IOSH IS keen to see countries around the world ratify the International Labour Organization's (ILO) conventions relating to occupational safety and health.

As part of this, it has urged the UK Government to consider a more proactive and holistic approach to workplace health and safety to prevent standards “falling way behind other developed countries”. Currently, fewer than one in five conventions are ratified in the UK despite a safe and healthy working environment now being classed as a fundamental principle and right at work by the ILO, since June last year.

In a letter to then Prime Minister Liz Truss in September last year, IOSH called on the Government to act on this. But, as Parliament gets set to return from the summer recess, IOSH is concerned at a lack of action.

Ruth Wilkinson, IOSH’s head of policy said, “Despite the recent ratification of the ILO’s Violence and Harassment Convention 190, we’ve seen little movement on this front.

“The Government is focused on economic growth and reducing economically inactive workers, so let’s make sure we identify and action holistic ways to support these agendas through good work. This means work which is meaningful and for which any safety and health risks are well managed.

“Occupational safety and health actually has a key role here, through supporting people back into work, to work healthier and more sustainably, and to prevent them falling out of work.

“The Government can take a major step to improving workplace health and safety standards by ratifying relevant occupational safety and health conventions, including the Convention on Occupational Health Services. Failure to do so will see the UK fall way behind other developed countries.”

Last year, 135 people were killed in workplace accidents, a figure IOSH said was a “sobering reminder of the cost of health and safety failure”. Added to this, many thousands of people were injured – some severely – in such accidents while 1.8 million people are estimated to be suffering from work-related ill health.

Ruth added: “Health and safety standards in the UK are much better than they were 20, 30 or 40 years ago, however the improvements have stagnated in more recent years, with the number of fatalities remaining similar each year for over a decade. With work-related ill health and injury equating to millions of lost working days and costing the economy billions of pounds each year, there is a risk that the significant progress achieved in recent decades might lull into complacency.

“One death in the workplace is too many. We are calling on the Government to act on this, to ratify these conventions and be more proactive and holistic in supporting people to work, to undertake good work, and thus preventing harm at work.”

IOSH has also called on the Government to protect health and safety legislation following the passing of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023. While such legislation wasn’t in the initial schedule for this Act, there remains the possibility Ministers may revoke it in future.

Ruth added: “This isn’t a time to compromise. Ensuring the UK has robust health and safety standards is crucial. It’s good for business, good for society and, importantly, it saves people’s lives.”

View IOSH's Activate 2028 strategy, detailing how IOSH aims to continue its push towards a safe and healthy world of work.