Health and safety in the conference spotlight


Health and safety in the conference spotlight

Conference underlined the importance that it attaches to health and safety when it insisted on continuing to debate policy proposals on the issue, overturning a ruling that the section had run out of time.

stethoscope and medical form

The conference overwhelmingly supported a motion proposed by London and South East regional branch calling on Prospect to adopt all the core and enhanced standards set out in Thriving at work – the independent review of mental health and employers by Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer. 

The motion valued the excellent contribution Prospect has historically made to promoting its members' health and well-being, including Prospect's popular Stress, Stigma, Solutions initiative.

Graeme Henderson, proposing the motion, pointed out that mental health issues including stress are one of the major causes of lost working time and that an underlying cause is workers' lack of control in the workplace.

"At the root of workplace stress there's a power imbalance, he said. "To truly address workplace stress we have to challenge business models that place shareholder return above all else."

Celia Hutchison (BBC Media City North West) added that the key point is about challenging the stigma of stress and mental distress.

She said: "If people feel confident to be open about the mental stress they are experiencing and their mental health problems it would help all of us challenge the working practices that can cause these mental health problems."

Challenging funding cuts in education

The Education and Children's Services group successfully proposed a motion instructing the national executive committee to challenge funding cuts that have jeopardised local authorities' capacity to fulfil their statutory duties in relation to school improvement and children's services.

It will also highlight the negative effect on mental health on service providers and users, promote mental health awareness in the community and the workplace, and highlight the effect of poor employment practices and public policy.

Conference heard that funding cuts had left local authorities so short of money that they had had to prioritise support for those in crisis situations, despite the fact that failure to give adequate assistance to those with emerging mental health issues in childhood increases their chance of lifelong suffering from these issues.

Menopause awareness

Conference overwhelmingly supported a motion on the menopause proposed by Gillian Gilbert (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

It committed Prospect to raising awareness of the matter within the union's health, safety and well-being guidance, provide links to other useful sources of information, investigate whether other action is required and report back to the 2020 conference.

Too hot to handle

A motion on enforceable limits on maximum working temperature was, however, remitted after John Cuthbert, (Health and Safety Executive) told conference of the difficulties of implementing the motion as worded.

The NEC added its concern at legislating on an absolute temperature covering all jobs in all industries.

Other unions such as the bakers, had called for temperatures to be reasonable rather than specifically defined. The motion was remitted.