This year is the 50th anniversary of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, but while we’ve made significant progress, the future of health and safety at work could be compromised.

A lack of skilled workers makes health and safety measures exponentially harder to stick to, creating dramatically higher risks at work. A lack of experience and training, partnered with increased workload to make up for employee shortages is a health and safety nightmare waiting to happen. And every industry is suffering from a chronic skills shortage. An astonishing 91 per cent of UK businesses are facing major challenges with both recruiting and retaining highly skilled employees, according to Speakers Corner.

The reasons for this seemingly unending struggle, which industries have been warning about for more than a decade, are myriad and complex. The pandemic and the subsequent Great Resignation are recent compounding factors, but could it be that the next generation of workers simply aren’t attracted to what companies are offering?

Enter Gen Z

Gen Z currently make up 30 per cent of the world’s population and are expected to account for 27 per cent of the workforce by 2025. So it’s imperative that organisations recognise the unique characteristics and concerns of this new generation to better attract, engage, and retain young talent.

Gen Z’s heightened awareness of risks and their sensitivity to them means a greater focus on holistic health and safety is the best way to attract them to the workplace, thus securing the future progress of health and safety at work.

So, what does safety mean to Gen Z and why does it matter so much?

Gen Z’s heightened awareness of safety extends beyond physical, also encompassing mental health and emotional wellbeing. This means Gen Z employees are not only concerned about traditional health and safety measures, but also a workplace’s impact on wellbeing and psychological safety.

Gen Z employees value workplaces that celebrate diversity and promote inclusivity, where they can bring their authentic selves to work without fear of discrimination or bias.

Importance of Health and Safety Training

The way to effectively foster a culture of safety and support is to invest in comprehensive health and safety training for all employees.

Relevant courses and qualifications include:

  1. IOSH Working Safely | IOSH Managing Safely: The IOSH suite of culture courses are designed to improve the safety culture within an organisation and provide employees with an understanding of how their actions contribute to safety, health, and well-being.
  2. NEBOSH Health and Safety at Work Award Qualification: This qualification provides the perfect introduction to those looking for a good understanding of workplace health and safety or who are looking to have more of this focus in future roles in the organisation.
  3. NEBOSH General Certificate: This qualification provides a broad understanding of health and safety principles and practices.
  4. NEBOSH HSE Certificate in Managing Stress at Work | NEBOSH Working with Wellbeing: These qualifications provide an ideal introduction to workplace stress/wellbeing and the factors that affect them.
  5. Mental Health First Aid Training: This training equips employees with the skills to identify, understand, and support colleagues who may be experiencing mental health issues.
  6. Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Training: To create an inclusive environment, organisations can provide training that raises awareness about unconscious bias, promotes diversity, and ensures fair treatment of all employees.

In Summary

A greater emphasis on holistic health and safety is vital when looking to attract, engage and retain young talent. Organisations that fail to acknowledge this will not only miss out on Gen Z talent, but risk further compromising the future of health and safety at work.

What can be dubbed as the safest generation, Gen Z holds an expectation that organisations should align with their thinking. This encompasses far more than traditional physical safety and employers should offer resources to ensure all aspects of health and safety are covered.

By investing in relevant health and safety training programmes and qualifications that go beyond the basics of physical safety, organisations will be making employee lives easier, happier, and therefore more productive with fewer injuries and absences, and better staff retention.

The history of health and safety at work is something to be proud of. Since the Health and Safety at Work Act’s birth in 1974, big strides have been made to improve occupational health and safety and be updated to move with the times. But to make sure our future workplaces continue improving in that area, we need to expand its definition to meet the needs of future workers.

Managing Director at RRC International

Richard Stockley is the Managing Director of RRC International, the UK's leading international provider of health & safety qualification training. Having worked at RRC for the past ten years, his strong background in learning technology software development has brought a wealth of experience to the business.