Occupational Health and Wellbeing - A charter for success?

Figures from various health-related organisations suggest that some 40 million working days are lost each year in the UK as a direct result of occupational ill-health. In terms of productivity alone that many lost days represents literally billions of pounds lost to the UK economy, as well as revenue to the companies it affects.

 Occupational Health and Wellbeing Charter

Occupational Health and Wellbeing Charter

There can be little doubt, therefore, that productivity depends on people being ready and able to perform at their best, and taking the time and money to look after them will return many times over on this investment through fewer lost days and loyalty - the result of a healthier, happier and more content workforce.

The Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS), as an industry trade association, takes the issues of health, safety and wellbeing extremely seriously and it is incumbent upon it to address them through the lobbying for legislative change and the running of its own campaigns and initiatives.

The FPS has always sought to:

  • Eliminate occupational factors and conditions hazardous to health and safety at work
  • Develop and promote healthy and safe working, work environments and organisations
  • Enable employees to conduct socially and economically productive lives

However, the FPS is clear in its stance that still not enough is being done across the industry to address these issues and that more needs to be done in respect to mental health and wellbeing. With a 2017 report by Public Health England finding that suicide was the leading cause of death for men under 50 and that it was low-skilled construction workers who had the greatest risk at 3.7 times the national average, according to the Office of National Statistics, then it follows that industry associated lifestyle factors must be a big contributor.

In fact, mental health issues were, according to research conducted on the construction industry by the ECIS Insurance Service, cited as the third most common cause of absenteeism and presumably presenteeism (turning up for work unwell).

Stress, anxiety and depression, of course, are nothing new, but their legacy ‘taboo' status means they must be addressed with vigour and form part of any proactive improvement strategy. FPS members accept that change is not only necessary but long overdue and are collectively determined to do all they can to bring it about.

Against this backdrop, the FPS has decided to step things up a gear and introduce its own ‘Occupational Health and Wellbeing Charter', with the sole aim of making health and wellbeing as much a part of good working culture as they are about legislation.

Recently published and available on the FPS website, the Occupational Health and Wellbeing Charter, brings together a set of guiding principles that its members are committed to implementing. Specifically, it looks to show leadership commitment to employees and stakeholders, build a culture of health and wellbeing, but significantly, set minimum standards for health surveillance, which members would be audited against.

The FPS is supporting the Charter by committing funds for training members and developing knowledge on related subjects

More than just a document of commitment, the FPS is supporting the Charter by committing funds for training members and developing knowledge on related subjects such as mental health, stress management, drugs and alcohol awareness and dietary issues. This leadership commitment will hopefully act as a catalyst with member companies supporting the FPS initiatives with their own and making the process of change self-promoting.

The FPS is also committing to strategically support construction-based charities such as The Lighthouse Club, Mates in Mind and the ICE Benevolent Fund, all of which can support industry workers who have issues such as health problems and require financial support.

Recently, the FPS has become a charity partner of Mates in Mind, which is committed to raising awareness, addressing the stigma of poor mental health and promoting positive mental wellbeing across workplaces. It also helps to make sense of available options and supports employers in addressing mental health within the workplace, working across industries, though with a strong focus on construction. The FPS aims to raise a significant sum of money through its many social events and Mates in Mind, will be among those to benefit.

The FPS is planning to host a seminar dedicated specifically to health, safety and wellbeing and will also engage with other industry trade organisations to add weight to any construction-wide campaigns.

Employees of FPS members will all receive an appropriate health assessment at a frequency of at least once every three years that will address any job-specific needs. As with all aspects of the FPS audit, requirements will move progressively upwards to ensure the bar is lifted ever higher.

With FPS members from time to time using non-directly employed workers, the Charter will seek to address some of the many issues that this can bring. For example, the Charter makes commitments including, resisting zero-hours style contract, encouraging FPS members to employ agency staff only from agencies that provide health surveillance and raise awareness regarding the use of permanent health insurance or accident, sickness and unemployment cover.

For too long the construction sector has put health and wellbeing issues on the back burner. However, the FPS believes its Charter will not only greatly progress the standards of health and wellbeing in the piling industry, but also bring benefits, initiatives and ideas that will find application in the wider construction community. 

The Federation of Piling Specialists' Occupational Health and Wellbeing Charter can be read online.