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BOHS Highlights Link Between Workplace Health and Sustainability Goals

BOHS Highlights Link Between Workplace Health and Sustainability Goals
03 November 2022

Worker health protection standards directly relate to sustainable development goals, according to The British Occupational Hygiene Society and the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection.

A “healthy working environment” was recently added to the list of global fundamental rights for people who work by the International Labour Organisation. In response to this, The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), a leading scientific charity and the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection have created a guide that allows businesses to link employee health and environmental goals. They argue that by preventing ill-health, organisations can demonstrate their sustainability credentials.


“We still have a notion that in work there are ‘occupational hazards’ and accept that thousands of people are allowed to get ill in the one environment wholly created and managed by humans – the working environment.”

–Professor Kevin Bampton

CEO, The British Occupational Hygiene Society


Sustainability Not Just About the Planet – But People Too


Sustainability is about the environment, nature and the planet – but it is also about people,” says Professor Kevin Bampton who is the BOHS’ CEO and former United Nations Special Adviser.

“We all understand that a throwaway approach to packaging and consumer goods is more than waste, but detrimental to our future. Yet we have a disposable approach to workers. We let people get ill unnecessarily, adding to health and social care costs, the benefits bill and hospital waiting lists.

“We still have a notion that in work there are ‘occupational hazards’ and accept that thousands of people are allowed to get ill in the one environment wholly created and managed by humans – the working environment.”


The Notion of Workplace “Occupational Hazards” Should be “Banished”


The Society is calling for this notion of an “occupational hazard” to be banished from workplaces: “What it masks is how deeply appalling the concept is: the notion that part of accepting a job is the acceptance of harm to health, scarcely belongs in modern society. The workplace is the one environment which is entirely human-created and where health exposures are entirely determined by humans.

“Extending an individual’s working life by rehabilitating them back into unhealthy working environments will simply ensure that they are more broken, more in need and more used up than they would have been before. It simply defers the crisis in social care and health.”


1.2 Million Suffer from Occupational Disease in the UK


The Health and Safety Executive figures show that in the UK, 1.2 million people suffer from an occupational disease, compared to a working population of 32 million. Most of these diseases are entirely preventable and are often caused by pollutants in the workplace that may go on to harm the environment.

HSE statistics also highlight that for every person who dies as a result of a workplace accident, almost 100 die from occupational disease.

“There are a multitude of illnesses, including incurable cancers that arise from workplace exposures,” says BOHS President, Chris Keen, who is the Principal Scientist at HSE.

“But the vast majority of these are relatively easy to prevent and avoid. At a time where it’s getting harder to find the right workers, it makes perfect sense for business sustainability to focus on the health of their workers, in the same way as they would want to look after any other key asset. This guide helps organisational leadership place worker health within their general sustainability strategy.”

The BOHS guide to Workplace Health and the UN Sustainable Development Goals is available here for free download and use.

Picture: a photograph of a person having some physical therapy, lifting a handheld weight whilst another person supports their shoulder Image Credit: Pexels

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 03 November 2022


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