Pause for thought

10 Feb

These are exciting and busy times at the British Safety Council, and especially our department. Our Think Tank has been launched; there are consultations with members going on; international stories and case studies; recommendations post Common Sense, Common Safety to be discussed; campaigns to be launched; interviews, projects, stories… the list goes on. We are busy, but we are best when we are.

Something about the world of health and safety which has struck me recently, is that, while there are signficant priorities and currently fashionable topics, there is so much more happening which would  be great to be able to cover in more depth. But we only have so many fingers and there are many, many pies. We have a strong sense of purpose here, with sector focuses and targeted campaigns. And it is right to use our expertise and resources wisely.

But every day, new stories and research highlight just how far-reaching occupational health, safety and environmental management go. I recently heard about some interesting research the British Occupational Health Research Foundation were doing related to older women workers and their experience of the menopause. The findings will be made available to the public 1 March, but this was something that grabbed my attention.

As a woman yet to go through the menopause (though one who has watched the sufferings of her mother from the sidelines) I really wasn’t fully aware of how it could affect us in terms of our health at work and how the work environment could help or hinder it. The BOHRF are hoping to use their findings to give evidence based recommendations to inform policy, best practice and a working environment conducive to the health and productivity of women working through the menopause. Highlighting this and providing guidance for employers, and consequently support for their employees, will help keep women in work longer, thus reducing staff turnover and the detrimental effects on women’s health, motivation and performance.

We cannot predict the health effects of our body’s natural path, just as we cannot predict what lies in store for us around any corner we choose to turn. What is encouraging, however, is that there are people and organisations who are ready to investigate, talk and give support around such issues as the menopause. And for women, as we increasingly work into our sixties and beyond, or even take up new types of work into older age, this is more than encouraging. In a world where gender and age issues in the work place continue to reflect badly out of the media, steps to address issues important to the lives of working women should be applauded and accepted.

Only through better understanding of issues such as the effect of the menopause on working women will they and their employers continue to benefit from the experience and richness women bring to the workplace.

The report can be found at www.bohrf.org.uk from 1 March.

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