At the time of the launch he said: "This new confidential advisory service for small businesses offers cost-effective and simple solutions to help cut workplace injuries and ill-health. It is simply unacceptable that UK small businesses incur major costs because they are unaware of effective and efficient solutions to manage health and safety.”
Delivered in partnership with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the service aims to reduce the incidence of workplace ill health in smaller businesses, which leads to 28million working days lost - or the equivalent of around £10billion. Smaller businesses are defined as those employing between five and 250 people.
Geoffrey Podger, Chief Executive of the HSE, said: "Smaller businesses have always driven the UK economy forward and we want to give them every opportunity to continue this role. However, workplace ill health is costing small businesses up to 10 per cent of their total payroll costs, which can put real downward pressure on their bottom line. We therefore want to help small business stop workers becoming ill at work and help them to get back to work as soon as possible, if they do, which is ultimately why we have launched Workplace Health Connect.”
Workplace Health Connect provides free, impartial and practical advice and support on health, safety and return-to-work issues. Small businesses in England and Wales can access the service via an Advice line (0845 609 6006). Where needed, this will be followed up by workplace visits from qualified Workplace Health Connect advisers. These visits are currently available in London, the North East, the North West, South Wales and the West Midlands - which covers approximately 40 per cent of all smaller businesses. Further expansion of the service is planned for 2007.
Workplace Health Connect advisers are able to advise on a range of issues that can affect workplace health, including poor manual handling techniques, incorrect use of chemicals, poor hygiene in the workplace, working in dusty or noisy environments, and working at a badly set up workstation.
Further information about the Workplace Health Connect initiative is available via a dedicated website .
Healthy Working Lives (formerly Safe and Healthy Working) is a similar service available to smaller businesses in Scotland. The service can be accessed on 0800 019 2211 or visit the website for more information.