With a focus on improving workplace health and troubleshooting problems, the Health and Safety Executive have appointed a new committee to provide independent expert knowledge, guidance and advice on health in the workplace.
The new Workplace Health Expert Committee (WHEC) will be made of nine select members who will provide expert opinion on issues that emerge in the sector, as well as highlighting trends and new evidence related to existing issues as well as sharing their expert viewpoint on the quality and relevance of the new and existing evidence base on workplace health issues.
An independent chair will lead the WHEC and it will provide both scientific and medical advice to the Chief Scientific Advisor and Director of Research at the HSE, Professor Andrew Curran, as well as the HSE’s Board.
Chemical and Physical Hazards in the Workplace
The WHEC has a main focus on chemical and physical hazards as well as behavioural or organisational factors (such a shift work) in different workplaces which could lead to damage or ill effects to the physiological or psychosocial of employees. The focus of the WHEC will not be to look at wellbeing issues, absence management or rehabilitation issues as these are handled by different government departments and/or sections of the HSE. The committee is also not designed to consider individual cases of ill health or disease, but rather look at the bigger issues from a scientific and evidence based perspective.
Reducing the Causes of Occupational Ill Health
Speaking about the new committee, Professor Andrew Currant highlighted his pleasure at the ‘world-class team’ of workplace health experts who had be appointed to the committee and his belief that this independent body will serve to support and supplement the professionals within the HSE. He also went into more detail with regard to occupational ill health highlighted that around 13,000 individuals die annually because of occupational lung disease and cancer, due to past work exposure, usually to dust and chemicals. He also highlighted that an estimated 1.2 million people working 2013/14 suffered from an illness they believed was caused or exacerbated by work. He also expressed his hope for the future, looking forward to WHEC working with the HSE to develop new strategies to bring down the levels of workplace ill health.
The Chair of WHEC has been announced as Professor Sir Anthony Newman Taylor and he too has expressed his delight at holding the position and his positivity for the changes it will hopefully be involved in making.
The next few years will be crucial to see if WHEC has an impact on workplace health issues and whether the numbers do begin to fall thanks to changes in the understand of the causes behind many conditions and evidence based research to work on removing or limiting these causes.