‘You can’t be a safe worker if you’re not a healthy worker’.
According to Graham Sharp, Managing Director of materials handling specialist, Stanley Handling, this statement from Professor Dame Carol Black, the government advisor on health and work, should be on display in every warehouse and factory.
The link between both the health and safety of employees, he argues, cannot be overstated, as investing in staff wellbeing has shown to improve productivity by up to 25 percent. This doesn’t include added value to a business from higher performance, reduced sickness absence or better staff retention. Longer hours don’t always translate into increased achievement. Quite simply, an employee operating at one hundred percent efficiency is better than them completing an eight-hour shift at just fifty percent. Individual happiness, physical wellbeing and positive mental health are all major contributors to the overall health and profitability of any business.
Injuries arising from poor manual handling costs the UK economy millions each year with more than 100,000 recorded injuries annually, 2000 of those classed as severe. Musculoskeletal injuries account for over 40% of all work-related sickness and data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) shows that around 8.8 million working days were lost to this type of injury during 2015-16, mainly caused by improper manual handling or poor ergonomic practices. Using an average sick pay amount of £17.69 per day, researchers calculated the total cost to firms of around £154 million.
Reducing injuries but also mitigating costs due to lost productivity are two major challenges for logistics and warehousing businesses. In addressing these, the use of specially designed, powered goods handling solutions has shown to deliver a positive return on investment.
Similarly, innovative wearable devices which employ artificial intelligence (AI) to identify hazardous actions, by continuously measuring movement, frequency and forces on the body, are now being trialed. A major benefit of AI-based solutions, is that data collected can encourage employees to self-manage their own wellbeing, whilst management can use it to implement wider business improvements. In Stanley’s experience of supporting customers with such technology, operatives can learn and embed new movement techniques into their working lives, reduce the risk of injury and help create a culture of safety and productivity, which adds significant value to the business.
It goes without saying that employers have a responsibility to assess and manage the risks posed to their employees from manual handling, as covered by the Manual Handling Operations Regulations (MHOR)1992. Failure to comply leaves a business and its directors at risk of prosecution from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), not to mention the potential fall-out from financial penalties and reputational damage.
From a mental health perspective, the misconceived notion that working longer hours boosts productivity has had the opposite effect. According to a report by the Lancet Commission, more than 15 million days were lost to absence arising from anxiety, stress and depression in 2018. The report stated that mental health disorders are on the rise in every country in the world, which could cost the global economy up to $16tn by 2030 if not addressed urgently.
The Stevenson/Farmer review published in 2017 entitled ‘Thriving at Work’ claimed that workplace mental health issues costs UK employers a staggering £42 billion per year and estimates that 15 per cent of workers have an existing mental health condition.
Again, technology has a role to play in tackling but also understanding this issue better, which is fast becoming a corporate epidemic. Designed with carefully researched algorithms, the use of online mental health diagnostic tools have shown to be effective in quickly identifying vulnerable team members, so they can be supported appropriately.
Improving overall workplace wellbeing requires a holistic, consultative approach, which is managed both discreetly and empathetically. For a workplace to be a rewarding and ultimately happy place to spend so much of our lives, it’s up to employers to take a proactive stance on employee safety and wellbeing. Above all, an individual’s happiness, productivity, performance and retention are all linked to their physical and mental health, so in looking after people properly, this should be considered an investment, not a cost.
More about: Stanley Handling
Stanley Handling is a Bedfordshire-based specialist in delivering innovative manual handling equipment and software solutions, designed to improve the safety, efficiency and physical and mental wellbeing of employees.