The importance of health and safety in the workplace is being highlighted this week [24 – 28 October] as part of European Health and Safety Week.

The annual awareness initiative, which is organised by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) in conjunction with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), is encouraging employers and workers across the continent to engage in awareness-raising activity – including social media events, exhibitions and special film screenings - to reinforce the importance of robust health and safety protocols in all workplaces.

The theme of this year’s campaign focuses on creating a healthy workplace for employees of all ages in organisations of all sizes and sectors.

Various trade union groups are backing the event, including the Trades Union Congress (TUC), which has produced a handbook for employers on how to accommodate an ageing workforce.

Meanwhile, UNISON has published online guidance for its members to help make their workplaces safer. This includes conducting a thorough inspection of the workplace, raising awareness of issues with union groups, identifying areas of concern with risk mapping exercises, surveying workers to identify concerns and working with employers to develop health and safety policies.

EU-OSHA estimates that by 2030, workers aged 55 to 64 will make up nearly a third of the total workforce in certain EU countries, as a result of increased life expectancy and older retirement ages and as this could lead to an increased number of workers suffering from workplace injuries or long-term health issues, employers will need to consider giving older employees alternative work and providing access to rehabilitation.

Charlotte Mackulin, workplace accident solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Campaigns such as this are a great way of raising awareness of the risks associated with poor health and safety procedures.

“The UKs health and safety record has improved greatly over the past few decades, but the fact that 1.2 million people suffered a work-related illness between 2014/2015 and in the 2015/2016 year 144 fatalities were reported at work, proves that we still have too many unsafe workplaces in the UK. More needs to be done by the government to tackle employers who fail to give health and safety the priority it deserves which will, at the end of the day, save their workers’ health, and them money.

“Thompsons has long campaigned and fought for the rights of workers and, alongside our trade union counterparts, we will be redoubling our efforts to ensure that Brexit isn’t used as an excuse to water down essential health and safety standards.”