New Northern Ireland Workplace Health Leadership Group calls for effective occupational health management on Workers' Memorial Day

Date published: 28 April 2017

On Workers' Memorial Day, the newly formed Northern Ireland Workplace Health Leadership Group (NIWHLG) is highlighting the important role that awareness and effective occupational health management have in today’s workplaces.

Northern Ireland Workplace Health Leadership Group

The Group also reflected on the cost of poor occupational health on the Northern Ireland economy, which is estimated to be over £219 million. A cost expected only to increase.

Workers' Memorial Day is an annual event designed to “remember the dead: fight for the living”. While the day is an important reminder of those people who have been tragically killed or seriously injured as a result of a workplace incident, it is also a time to reflect on those who have died or continue to suffer as a result of their health being affected by their job. 

The day not only serves as a poignant reminder that everyone has the right to come home safe, but also healthy from their place of employment.

Effective workplace health management is a challenge facing all employers. The outcome of poor occupational health management is wide ranging but can present in a large number of different health conditions both mental and physical. 

This includes cancers connected to the type of job someone does. An example of this would be occupational lung cancer seen in construction workers as a result of being exposed to silica, from activities such as kerb cutting without appropriate controls being put in place. It also includes asbestos related deaths that still claim the lives of over 60 people a year in Northern Ireland. 

Other workplace health conditions, such as musculoskeletal problems and asthma, account for high numbers of occurrences. While these conditions are not always fatal, they still have life changing consequences for those concerned. Workplace stress continues to be experienced in all types of workplaces and effective management actions need to be proactively considered.

The need to halt the horrendous impact of poor occupational health on all sections of society is part of the rationale of the formation of NIWHLG. The Group, formed in 2016, has membership representation from industry, professional bodies and government. Their work will involve, early in 2018, the roll out of a five year strategy, aimed at building awareness, capacity and capability of effective occupational health management among business leaders and health and safety professionals.

Notes to editors: 

  1. NIWHLG‘s membership is made up of:

    •  British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS)
    •  Public Health Agency
    •  Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, NI Branch (IOSH)
    •  BuildHealth
    •  Northern Ireland Safety Group
    •  Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI)

  2. HSENI is the lead body responsible for the promotion and enforcement of occupational health as well as safety in Northern Ireland.  
  3. Work undertaken in 2013 by DETI’s Analytical Services Unit estimated the total cost to Northern Ireland of workplace fatality, injury and work-related ill health to be approximately £285 million. Statisticians estimate that ill health represents three quarters of this total figure at 77%. This means that occupational ill health is estimated to cost the Northern Ireland economy a staggering £219 million a year. Given the natural latency of ill health issues, without adequate and appropriate intervention, this problem will simply and tragically grow in the future.
  4. NIWHLG plans to launch their five year strategy at an event in early 2018.
  5. For media enquiries please contact: HSENI Press Office on 028 9024 3249 or email media@hseni.gov.uk

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