Let’s talk about human capital

Human capital does not exist as a figure on a balance sheet. Rather, human capital is an intangible asset and represents the economic value of a worker’s experience and skills. This includes education, training, intelligence, skills, health, and other things employers value such as loyalty and punctuality.

Just like financial capital, human capital can be lost by a lack of investment, or if due consideration is not given to occupational safety and health. The costs of this are clear:

  • In 2017/2018, 30.7million working days were in the UK lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury
  • The annual UK costs of work-related injury and new cases of ill health in 2016/17, excluding long latency illness such as cancer, reached £15billion
  • In 2017/18, there were 595,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (new or long-standing cases)[1].

To help individuals thrive in the workplace, we need to think differently about occupational safety and health and accident prevention. To do this we need interventions to promote health and wellbeing that can take place across a person’s lifespan. In particular, OSH practitioners need to think about having conversations with people at these stages:

  • Pre-work (education)
  • At the start of working life
  • Mid-career review
  • Pre- and post-retirement.

In line with this thinking, here at RoSPA we promote a whole-person, whole-life approach to prevention, believing that accidents and cases of occupational ill health don’t have to happen, and that safe and healthy work underpins success.

A good starting point to begin to develop your human capital would be establishing routine reflective practice, from both a personal and organisational perspective. OSH and HR professionals should ask themselves “Why are people still having accidents?”, or “Why are they developing work-related heath conditions that we know how to prevent?”

One means of formalising a reflective OSH practice would be to enter into the RoSPA Awards. Among other impetuses, the submission process seeks to draw out how an organisation is learning from accidents and near misses.

In addition, expert safety training is necessary for all employees, especially if there’s a risk for potential injury associated with a particular job. There are several different safety training courses that provide staff with a foundation of knowledge for health and safety, teaching them to minimise risk, identify opportunities for process improvement, and gain the knowledge required to promote a health and safety culture, including the NEBOSH National General Certificate,  IOSH Managing Safely and RoSPA Qualifications.

For information on any of RoSPA’s workplace safety training qualifications, you can visit our website, email or call us on +44 (0)121 248 2233.

Here are some further action points for OSH practitioners:

  • Look at collecting data on absence from work that results from accidents that happen outside of work, either to workers themselves or to those for whom they have caring responsibilities
  • Consider accessing personal and organisational mentoring, available through the RoSPA Awards Ambassador network
  • Place a new emphasis on managing mental health in the workplace by completing a stress risk assessment for job roles.

Dr Karen McDonnell, CFIOSH, Chartered FCIPD, MRSB, PIEMA, MSP
Head of RoSPA Scotland, RoSPA OHS Policy Adviser

[1]  (All statistics from Health and Safety Executive)

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