3rd November, 2016
Health can often take a back seat when it comes to health and safety. So remember, remember, your health this November!
Sometimes, the health part of health and safety can be low down on the business agenda. That is, immediate safety risks are given priority, and it is easy to see why.
If you can see an immediate danger, you act quickly. This is human nature, it’s just the same when you prioritise your work load, you get the urgent deadlines done first, and the work that is due in the distant future you deal with nearer the time.
Safety risks usually fall into this immediate danger category.
Often, safety risks have an immediate impact.
Health problems can often develop over a number of years. Even if one exposure can cause devastating health affects, they may not appear immediately.
The problem with health risks is that, while they may not affect you immediately, (or even within the next few weeks, months, or years), by the time you start to suffer, and you get around to thinking about, and even trying to deal with the problem, it might be too late.
Multiple exposures to materials such as asbestos, fumes, or vibrating equipment, or even just sitting at your work desk might not pose any immediate risk to your safety, but what will be the impact later in life?
Exposure to asbestos is a perfect example of how serious health risks can be.
Every year around 2000 people in the UK die as a result of past asbestos exposure. Despite the well known risks of asbestos workers, there are still many cases of exposure, and many buildings worked on without the correct survey in place. And at the end of the project, if everyone goes home safely, what harm was done?
The team might be fine in the short term, but what about in 10 or 20 years time?
If the effects of asbestos exposure were instant, killing over 30 people a week within days of exposure, it would certainly be even more of a priority than it is now.
People would simply refuse to disturb any materials unless they were certain they did not contain asbestos.
Health hazards can be immediate, but often they are delayed, asbestos exposure may not affect you for 20 years, asbestos related diseases and other health problems such as hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) might take years to develop.
Are there steps you could take today to reduce the long term impact on your health?
Remember, when you are risk assessing an activity, don’t just consider the immediate safety risks, but also the long term health risks, to keep your workforce safe AND healthy for the future.