Most workplace incidents are preventable, and we must continue to challenge negative perceptions surrounding health and safety, writes Kim Sunley.
On Workers’ Memorial Day we pause to remember colleagues who have died as a result of work-related accidents or ill-health. The motto - ‘Remember the dead and fight for the living’ – is an important reminder that work, for many people, is still fraught with danger.
Modern nursing is relatively safe but the diversity of nurse roles takes some RCN members to conflict zones or areas affected by epidemic. And closer to home, evidence from NHS Protect has found that assaults on NHS staff are increasing.
While some may consider this to ‘come with the territory’, everybody is entitled to work in a safe environment, where risks to health are properly controlled by employers, supported by a robust legal framework.
In 100 years since the RCN was formed, we have come a long way, but there is always more to do. Incidences of muscular skeletal disorders is still high amongst nursing staff, and illness caused by work-related stress remains common.
To force further change, we can start by challenging negative perceptions about health and safety – namely that it is all paperwork and bureaucracy, with no benefit for nursing staff.
The work of RCN Safety Representatives has been vital to shifting the tide of opinion, and research shows that workplaces with active safety representatives, supported by their employer to carry out their role, are safer than those without.
The RCN's network of Representatives and Safety Representatives help to keep nursing staff safe. We should also pause today to celebrate their achievements.