The 2019 Health & Safety Checklist

The 2019 Health & Safety Checklist

Published January 30, 2019

8 minute read


With this blog post we will be taking a look at the hot-button issues in health and safety for 2019.

While it's impossible to tell the future, as health and safety professionals it can pay to be prepared!

For our '2019 Health & Safety Checklist' webinar, we were joined by H&S industry experts Bridget Leathley (The Safer Choice), Derek McStea ( SEF Services, former Head of EHS at Siemens) and Billy O'Brien (Engage EHS now EcoOnline).

For a more in-depth look at the webinar topics, keep reading!

Listen to the webinar below:


1. Sickness and Accident Stats


2019 Checklist for health and safety sickness

The general direction of fatal and non-fatal accidents over the past twenty years has been downward, although this trend is flattening out.

Figures for most self-reported work-related ill-health, including musculoskeletal disorders, have also flattened in the past few years. However, two health areas are rising.

Deaths from mesothelioma, mostly linked to asbestos exposure, had been expected to drop at the turn of the century, but unfortunately have continued to rise. There has also been an upward trend in self-reported stress, depression, and anxiety.

Your Resolution:

Determine the prevalence of mental and physical health issues in your workplace, and prioritise areas to reduce the risk as source.

How to do it:

Once you have identified the most prevalent health issues in your organisation, treat them as you would any other hazard – identify the cause, and eliminate the source of the hazard (so far as is reasonably practicable).

If shift patterns cause stress, find out what shift patterns would reduce the stress; if staff have respiratory problems, work to remove any dust at the source, and improve ventilation for what is left. Personal protective equipment, like the free fruit and the telephone helpline, is not tackling the source of the problem.

What not to do:

Assume that providing free fruit, meditation, and mindfulness classes, and occupational health assistance phone lines will solve your problems.

There has been a growth in training mental health first aiders in 2018, but evidence from the University of Nottingham suggests that mental health first aid might not be the most cost-effective approach to take, and that without a wider programme to tackle mental health at source it is likely to be ineffective.

2. Get Active


Get active

The initial enthusiasm for sit-stand desks is beginning to wane. Studies – and experience – shows that people will only stand more and be more active at work if such furniture is introduced as part of a bigger programme of behavioural change (is there a common theme here?).

Some studies have shown people standing for only a few extra minutes a day after huge investments in new desks.

Your Resolution:

Think about how to get people more active at work, and outside work.

How to do it:

Identify the barriers to activity. Are people criticised by managers, supervisors, or even colleagues if they are not sitting at their desks all day? Do meeting rooms encourage sitting or promote standing? Do signs point people towards the lifts and escalators, whilst the stairs are hidden behind doors?

Instead of adjustable desks for all, a few adjustable hot-desks or fixed standing meeting areas might provide everyone with some opportunities to stand without the same expense. Leadership needs to buy into this – if the boss is standing when you arrive for a meeting, people are more likely to follow suit.

There might also need to be an allowance for an initial drop in productivity as people adapt their ways of working. Don’t forget people travelling for work – can staff swap driving for train journeys, so they have more opportunities to move about? Or better still, swap a journey for an online meeting, and spend the time saved going for a walk.

What not to do:

Invest your annual budget in expensive adjustable desks without trialing them first.

Don't insist everyone stands. Prolonged standing is associated with lower back pain, sore feet, swollen legs, stiff necks, cardiovascular problems, increased blood pressure, varicose veins, and even a small increase in the risk of miscarriage.

3. Technology


VR Health and safety

The use of virtual reality (VR) as a way of delivering safety training has grown enormously during 2018 and is expected to continue to develop in 2019.

Initially, most VR projects were in high margin, high-risk industries – such as offshore oil and gas. In 2018 VR projects for industries with tighter margins have included training for work at height, firefighting, fire investigation, and the safe use of tools and PPE. Meanwhile, the potential for other technology continues to grow.

Your Resolution

Go to some trade shows and find out about new technology that could make your job easier, and improve health and safety in the workplace.

How to do it:

Identify your problem areas – are there areas of competence that existing training just doesn’t seem to be able to tackle? Is there monitoring that you’d like to put in place, but it’s too difficult, dangerous, or time-consuming to do? Are you overwhelmed with data about safety in spreadsheets or emails?

Once you’ve identified some problems, go to an event where there are lots of relevant suppliers. Would VR improve training? Would drones or Internet of Things (IoT) improve monitoring? Do you need a better way of collecting information and tracking actions?

If you can’t afford your own VR training equipment, there are training providers who include VR as part of their off-the-shelf training, at no greater cost than their lower-tech competitors. If you can’t make the business case for buying a drone, hire one for a specific job and see how it works.  

Whatever you are thinking of buying, from an App on your phone to IoT-enabled wearable technology for everyone, arrange a trial first to see for yourself if it could be useful.

What not to do:

Buy tech because someone else recommended it.

4. Older Workforce - Newer Problems


older workforce

With the age for receiving a state pension increasing, and with lower birth rates, the UK Government estimates that by 2020 a third of workers will be over 50. By 2038, a quarter of the workforce will be over 65. This will have implications for work design and planning.

Whilst some older people are still strong and fit, there is a tendency for conditions such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and lung conditions to be more common, and for some, visual acuity, hearing and muscle strength will decline. More critically, a lot of knowledge is held by older people. They are the survivors. Has their understanding of how to do a job safely been captured to pass on when they retire?

The health and safety profession has a similar ticking time bomb. A survey of nearly 1000 health and safety professionals in 2018 showed only 5% were 30 or under, whilst nearly half (48%) were over 50. At the same time technology appears to be changing faster than ever – can you keep up with the opportunities for wearable monitoring, drones, virtual and augmented reality, or perhaps just how to get that Excel spreadsheet to work?

Your Resolution

If you need someone younger and more tech-savvy in health and safety in your organisation, perhaps in 2019 you could employ an apprentice or two?

How to do it:

2018 saw the launch of the new Safety, Health, and Environment Technician apprenticeship, and the first cohort started in August. The qualification is equivalent to A levels.

It might appeal to young people for whom A levels and university doesn’t appeal, but as there is no age limit, it might also appeal to someone who originally left school at 16, and after 20 years “at the coal face” shows an aptitude for understanding safety and health and wants to develop.

Funding is available to support the apprenticeships, so perhaps 2019 is the time to see if you can “grow your own” health and safety professionals. See the Institute for Apprenticeships for more details.

What not to do:

Make assumptions about what “baby boomers”, “millennials” or “post-millennials” will do, think or say. Not all baby boomers are tech-phobic, and not all post-millennials understand technology.

5. Planning For Major Disasters


Major disasters point

2018 saw some major incidents across the world, including terrorist attacks and natural disasters. How prepared are you for a major incident?

Your Resolution

Review and revise plans for major incidents.

How to do it:

Work through the impacts of natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

You might not be in a hurricane area, but are any of your suppliers or customers? Are you near a river or coast? Do you have hazardous inventories such as fuel storage or chemicals – have you considered the impact of extreme weather conditions or unusual fires on them? Are there neighbouring businesses with these hazards?

When you do think about fires, do you think only about those starting in your building? Summer 2018 saw wildfires across Dorset, Wales, and the North of England. The smoke from these fires had an impact on businesses nearby and transport links.

Think through each type of scenario – what would you do? How would you alert staff if instead of evacuating you wanted everyone to stay in the building, or move to one side of the building? Safety professionals have the skills to identify where things can go wrong, assess risks, and suggest practical measures that can be taken – if your organisation is planning for major emergencies without you, ask the contingency team or the head of security if you can help.

What not to do:

Plan everything around fires. Twice a year, your alarm goes on for a bit longer than the normal weekly test, and people amble outside to the assembly area with their coffee mug and their laptop bags. A few stay to finish emails. After a few minutes of shivering in the winter or sweltering in the summer, everyone heads back indoors.



GDPR point

GDPR has been a big concern for people this year. If you deal with health and safety information about people, you do need to take some straightforward steps, but it isn’t as complicated as many people seem to want to make it.

Your Resolution

Check you are keeping information about people safe.

How to do it:

If you make use of a cloud-based system to store information, get your supplier to send you a statement about how they are meeting GDPR in looking after your data. If you keep your health and safety information in Excel on your laptop hard disc, perhaps it’s time to think again. In the meantime, check that your laptop and any other computer you use are secure and that access to the system is password protected.

However you store information, identify what is personal. A generic risk assessment for climbing a ladder is not personal; a personal emergency evacuation plan, or a pregnancy or young person risk assessment that names an individual is. Then check you have a policy for justifying what information is collected, how it is used, who can see it, and how long it is kept for. Make sure everyone understands the policy. If you have a legitimate interest in keeping information, you do not need consent.

What not to do:

Send everyone a form to sign asking them for permission to keep their information.



2019 Checklist for health and safety BREXIT

At the end of 2017, we told you to remain optimistic about the outcomes of Brexit. It has been difficult to maintain that optimism during 2018, with resignations, amendments, and cancelled votes.

Your Resolution

Continue to think positively, however you voted, and whatever you think of the current position (whatever that is by the time you read this).

How to do it:

If you haven’t done so already, do your own Brexit risk assessment. Do you rely on EU suppliers, workers, and customers? Or, if you are in another EU country, how much do you depend on UK trade and services? Replacing competent workers and training them to do a job safely takes time.  If remaining staff do more overtime to cope, remember that fatigue makes people nearly three times more likely to have an accident. 

If you use supplies from EU countries, or from countries outside the EU, but with routes via EU countries, what will you use instead? Any substitution of products for cleaning, manufacturing, or construction will need to be fully risk assessed to identify consequences that might otherwise be ignored.

There is a requirement to review risk assessments when “there is reason to suspect that it is no longer valid, or there has been a significant change in the matters to which it relates.” With the ever-shifting ground in the Brexit process, this could keep you busy for the next few months.

What not to do:

Assume that leaving the EU will be either a race to the bottom for health and safety or a chance to unshackle ourselves from EU rules.

While there are questions about how processes for medicines, chemicals, pesticides, and so on will be managed in the UK, the rules and standards are likely to stay the same. CE marking and certificates of conformity will continue to be needed.

Remember, this is not an exhaustive list. There will always be new developments in safety, and it's important to prepare for them as much as possible.  If you would like help in updating health and safety management in your business, contact us today.

Author Laura Fitzgerald

Laura Fitzgerald is a Content Marketing Manager with EcoOnline. She has been writing about health and safety topics since 2017, with a focus on the areas of improving employee safety engagement and EHS legislation.

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