• International Workplace
  • 14 March 2017

New workplace health and safety Standard published

A new Quality Standard to help employers improve their staff’s mental and physical health and wellbeing has been published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

The Quality Standard aims to provide organisations with a framework to help them improve and measure employee health and wellbeing over time.

Standard QS147, Healthy workplaces: improving employee mental and physical health and wellbeing, published this month, is expected to contribute to improvements in the following outcomes:

  • wellbeing of employees;
  • employee satisfaction; and
  • sickness absence rates.

The Standard comprises four main recommendations for employers looking to achieve such goals, including having a named senior manager who makes employee health and wellbeing a core priority.

“Giving a senior manager responsibility for health and wellbeing shows the organisation's commitment to a healthy working environment,” the Standard advises. “The named manager can lead on healthy work initiatives and provide line managers and employees with support to improve working conditions.”

The role of line managers is also addressed, recognising the significant influence a line manager can have on employee attitudes and behaviours, and employers are advised to ensure employees are involved with decision-making around health and safety.

“Empowering employees to be involved in organisational decisions and practices that have a direct impact on them shows that the organisation they work for values their opinions,” the Standard states. “It can also lead to improved working practices and, in turn, improved job satisfaction, resulting in a more content and healthy workforce, as well as higher levels of commitment and productivity.”

Healthy Workplaces does focus on one specific area of health and safety – identifying and managing stress. It advises that managers are trained to recognise and support employees when they are experiencing stress, it says;

“Line managers are in regular contact with the employees they are responsible for, so they are in a good position to identify the early signs of stress. They can also help prevent the symptoms escalating into illness and sickness absence.” 

The draft Quality Standard was made available on the NICE website for a four-week public consultation period. In its response, IOSH suggested that as well as stress, the Standard should address musculoskeletal disorders, which, it states, is recognised as one of the key causes of lost working time by the HSE.

Shelley Frost, Executive Director – Policy at IOSH, said:

“Work-related stress and MSDs can be prevented through effective risk management techniques, safe working procedures, supervision and training. Whereas poor management of these risks can lead to absence and this can impact service delivery.”                                                           

NICE recommends that other Quality Standards that should be considered when providing employees with a healthy workplace are: