The Health and Safety Act 1974
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (‘HSWA’).
This landmark piece of legislation was implemented to standardise the protection that workers received under the law from exposure to potentially dangerous workplace risks. At the time these laws were codified, workers operated in conditions that many of us would view as unacceptable today, and the risk of serious injury or illness was incredibly high. The absence of consolidated health and safety regulations meant that workers who were exposed to dangerous processes and practices had little protection under the law.
Thankfully, the HSWA helped to turn the tide and since 1974, the UK has seen significant improvements in workplace health and safety practices, and workers now operate under one of the most comprehensive regulatory schemes in the world.
In this article, we’re exploring how ways of working have changed and evolved over the last 50 years, and discussing how modern technology can supplement a team’s efforts to comply with current regulations and better protect their workforce from known occupational risks.
50 years on, workers face many of the same workplace risks
The workplace of 2024 looks very different to the workplaces of 50 years ago, but workers are still facing many of the same risks, and consequences..
Many workers are still at risk of developing serious and irreversible musculoskeletal disorders, chronic respiratory diseases, and long-term damage to their hearing health. In the case of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), data shows that cases recently reached a five-year high. And workplace risk from dangerous proximity is still a pressing concern for workers in many sectors: Forklift accidents killed one worker every 13 days (27 workers per year) as of 2023.
In light of these ongoing challenges, it’s clear that while the HSWA was an incredible step forward for workplace health and safety, there’s still room for teams to take even better control of their risk environment.
What should teams do when technology moves faster than regulation?
Over the years, these ongoing challenges have been addressed by additional regulations, including the Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999), which requires employers to assess and manage risks in the workplace.
But as time has passed, especially since the last set of comprehensive regulations were introduced in 1999, technology has evolved at a pace much faster than that of regulation. This is true in many sectors and industries, including Banking and Finance, Insurance, and e-commerce, among others. It’s not unusual that we see rule-making bodies enacting post-facto legislation to address the natural ways that rapidly advancing technologies have changed - and continue to change - the ways that we work and conduct business.
Currently, there are no regulations in the UK which require employers to adopt modern technology in order to comply with health and safety regulations. But that doesn’t mean that the value of such technology isn’t widely understood. In fact, the benefits of increased technological adoption within the construction sector, for example, are well-known, and include enhanced efficiency, smarter planning and, of course, safer worksites.
Bringing occupational risk management into the modern era with workplace wearable technology
In 2024, the need for a more modern approach to occupational risk management is clear: the unique challenges faced by sectors like construction and manufacturing are only becoming more difficult to address, due to the rapid pace at which markets and customer demands continue to evolve and change.
In a landscape that’s moving faster than it ever has before, traditional methods for managing workplace health and safety can no longer keep up with the pace of day-to-day work. Fortunately, there are purpose-built solutions for occupational risk management that are designed for the dynamic, fast-paced workplaces of today, and they’re becoming increasingly popular among forward-thinking teams throughout the UK, and around the world.
Workplace wearable technology is a unique ecosystem of technology designed to capture personalised, real-time data from workers without interrupting their tasks or slowing them down. This technology is lightweight and easy to deploy, and requires minimal human intervention to use: This reduces the risk of error that often accompanies manual data collection processes and traditional risk assessments.
Plus, since workplace wearable technology is Cloud-based, the data that it collects and analyses is ultra-secure. Instead of files or spreadsheets kept in cabinets or unsecure computer programmes, the data is stored in a platform that is protected by Multi-Factor Authentication and which guarantees unparalleled confidentiality and data integrity.
Consider a solution that engineers risk out of the workplace
Today’s challenges require modern solutions. Just as updated styles and types of PPE have been introduced and accepted in the past, connected worker technology is now understood to be an incredibly effective method for tackling known workplace risks and helping to ensure organisational compliance.
With a solution specifically designed to engineer risk out of the workplace, teams who adopt this technology are putting themselves in a position to truly, meaningfully understand their risk environment, and more proactively manage their workplace health and safety risks.
The risks that workers face today - including from exposure to vibration, dust, noise, and dangerous proximity - are still as potentially dangerous in 2024 as they were 50 years ago. But the tools that we have to monitor and manage these risks have evolved, and they’ve shown that they have the power to revolutionise the way that organisations approach health and safety, and occupational risk management.
If your team is still using the same methods for risk management that it was 10, 20, or 50 years ago, it’s time to rethink your ways of working, and consider a digital upgrade.