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Workers call for health and safety legislation overhaul

12 July 2024

NEW RESEARCH has found that more than nine in ten workers believe that the main piece of UK Health & Safety legislation should be overhauled, fifty years after it was first introduced.

The figure calling for an overhaul rises to 97% amongst managerial staff, with the need for a ‘greater focus on mental health and wellbeing’ seen as the most important factor (82%) in a future rethink of health and safety, and also a key reason in 2024 that people feel safer in the workplace (50%).

Positively, 78% think there is also an opportunity for an overhaul of the Health & Safety Act to better reflect the current working and risk landscape and to improve safety in their sector.

The findings are outlined in the Dräger Safety and Health at Work Report 2024, an annual study exploring attitudes to safety and health topics in UK workplaces.

Mental health and safety

The research also highlights the disproportionate impact of cost of living pressures and financial difficulties on the mental health of younger generations, with more than half (59%) of Gen Z workers reporting that they are currently experiencing anxiety or depression, a figure which reduces through the generations, affecting less than one in five (18%) of Baby Boomers.

Overall, over a third (37%) of employees say that cost of living pressures and financial difficulties are affecting their mental health and wellbeing – with sleep (46%), focus (44%), decision-making (26%) and communication (23%) all being negatively impacted as a result, which has the potential to impact physical safety.

But while a growing focus on mental health and wellbeing within the sphere of workplace health and safety is clear to see, the research points to the potential for other safety issues to be overlooked as a result, with mental health and wellbeing seen as now being prioritised above issues such as asbestos risks, fire safety and working at height.

Matthew Bedford, managing director of Draeger Safety UK comments, “Five decades after it was introduced, it is perhaps unsurprising that so many people feel that approaches to Health & Safety need a rethink given the changes in working practices as well as the rising prevalence of mental ill health over the last five years, not to mention fifty years.”

“However, whilst it is clear that the issue of mental ill health is a key consideration for the future of health and safety in UK workplaces, it is vital that other, crucially important health and safety issues are not forgotten.”