To better address the damaging impact of workplace illnesses and injuries, the HSE recently formed the Workplace Health Expert Committee (WHEC). The problem of workplace illnesses and injuries is widespread—from 2013 to 2014, an estimated 1.2 million workers suffered from illnesses that were either caused or exacerbated by their workplaces. More than a quarter of those cases developed over the course of that year.
The WHEC will consist of nine scientific and medical experts who will provide independent expert knowledge and advice on workplace health to the chief scientific advisor and director of research at the HSE. Through the collective knowledge and professional expertise of its members, WHEC is expected to contribute to the safety and wellbeing of businesses through the following:
- Open and collaborative work with internal and external stakeholders, and the HSE’s social and delivery partners
- Strategic work to identify issues of potential concern to the workplace
- Contributions to the development of an evidence base, analysis and interpretation of the collected evidence
- Expert assessments on the quality and relevance of evidence
As it would be difficult and nearly impossible to cover all potential workplace health and safety issues, WHEC will focus its efforts on these two main areas of concern:
- Chemical and physical hazards that could lead to injury or illness
- Human behavioural or organisational factors in the workplace (such as shift work) that could lead to physiological and psychological disorders
The expectation for the committee is that through the methodical evaluation of health and safety concerns, issues—such as the 13,000 lives lost each year to lung disease—will begin a swift decline.