IOSH health policy

In 2014-15, around 1.2 million working people suffered work-related illness and an estimated 27.3 million working days were lost due to work-related illness and injuries. There were also an estimated 13,000 deaths due to occupational cancer and lung disease.  

IOSH believes a fundamental change is needed in how well the country manages work and a strong multi-disciplinary approach to occupational health issues, both physical and mental. Health needs to be managed more systematically, in the same way that safety is, and harmful exposures prevented. Good work is good for health and wellbeing and all work should be healthy, safe and supportive. As well as being linked to higher productivity, this can support corporate reputation, resilience and results.

The facts

  • Positive feelings about work have been linked to higher productivity, profitability and customer and worker loyalty.
  • In 2008, Dame Carol Black’s review of the health of Britain's working age population, found that work is generally good for people and can help them lead healthier lives, as long as the work is good and they're in safe and supportive workplaces.
  • The then Government responded to the review by committing to a programme of initiatives and acknowledging that “There is no clear boundary between safety-related issues on the one hand and health and well-being issues on the other.”
  • It also aimed to create a more inclusive workforce in which people aren't simply written off because they're not 100 per cent fit and the UK moved from ‘sick note’ to ‘fit note’ in 2010.
  • In 2014-15, around 1.2 million working people suffered work-related illness and an estimated 27.3 million working days were lost overall to work-related injuries and ill health. Around 80% of new work related conditions were health related – musculoskeletal disorders or stress, depression or anxiety.
  • There were also an estimated 13,000 deaths due to occupational cancer and lung disease.   
  • It's estimated there are only around 8,000 specialist occupational health professionals and hygienists in the UK, but around 30,000 practicing health and safety professionals.
  • IOSH is a member of the Council for Work and Health, which is a network bringing together key professional bodies that contribute to health and wellbeing at work.

Our position

IOSH believes a fundamental change is needed in how well the country manages work and a strong multi-disciplinary approach to occupational health issues, both physical and mental. Health needs to be managed more systematically, in the same way that safety is, and harmful exposures prevented. Good work is good for health and wellbeing and all work should be healthy, safe and supportive.  

As a nation, we need to make sure that everyone understands how to protect and improve health, and emphasise that 'worker-friendly' workplaces are productive and beneficial. IOSH promotes the message that good work is good for workers’ health and wellbeing, has been linked to higher productivity and can support corporate reputation, resilience and results. Also, that effective health management should be recognised as an investment and not a cost.  

Health and safety practitioners have a key role to play as workplace advocates - educating managers, spotting early signs of possible occupational illness and ensuring early referrals.

IOSH provides a number of free tools to help organisations develop skills in this area (see here) and the IOSH Blueprint competence and skills framework. Specifically, we provide an occupational health toolkit for non-medics, a guide on occupational health in construction and a booklet on health, safety and security of mobile workers, as well as guidance on rehabilitation and managing attendance to enable health and safety practitioners to play an increased role in work-related health issues.  

To help build the evidence-base, IOSH has funded research into a range of health-related areas, including the needs of older workers, the impact of unacceptable behaviour, the use of the fit note and issues such as voice health and shift work. And IOSH’s No Time to Lose campaign provides a range of free resources to help prevent exposures and reduce the toll of occupational cancers.   

IOSH advocates that where employers can help workers access certain therapies needed to stay in, or return to, work; tax relief should be available, see IOSH Li£e Savings report. Also, that in addition to the Fit for Work Service, small businesses in England and Northern Ireland should have free access to workplace visits and advice, similar to Healthy Working Lives Scotland or Healthy Working Wales.

Relevant IOSH consultation responses