Employers called on to boost productivity by encouraging male workers to take better care of their health

The Institution of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH) is asking employers to support next week's National Men's Health Week initiative to improve the health of male workers across the UK.

“Men and Work” is the theme of this year's National Men's Health Week, an annual event run by the Men's Health Forum, to take place on 9-15 June.

It aims to promote the use of the workplace to deliver positive health messages to men and to encourage them to take their health more seriously, and will link into the government's Health, Work and Wellbeing strategy.

For those in the construction industry, important health issues to be aware of at work are back pain, stress, occupational asthma, ear damage as a result of high noise levels, and of course asbestos – the greatest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK.

Ray Hurst, president of the IOSH, which is supporting the initiative, said: “As well as badly affecting their own lives and that of their families, workers' ill health certainly isn't good for business either. Having low morale and poor productivity can prevent organisations being successful, so it's sensible to help staff maintain a good work/life balance and to take care of themselves.”

Men can be reluctant to visit their GP because they are in denial about health problems, said Hurst, so it can make a big difference if employers help by providing information and health screening services.

Hurst also pointed out that employers have a particular responsibility for workers' heath: “Good work is good for people's health and well-being, but bad work and working environments aren't. So, as an employer, you need to ensure you're managing work risks properly, getting good health and safety advice, and that your managers are all well trained.

“But, in addition to preventing illness - why not also use your workplace as a convenient place for male staff to actively improve their health, by offering awareness raising and support services?”

Employers can download a free resource pack and obtain a new manual on promoting men's health in the workplace from www.menshealthforum.org.uk.

Five common complaints

Back pain
Back pain is the most common health disorder at work. Being aware of correct ways to sit, stand and so forth and modifying how you undertake regular tasks to reduce strain on your back can help in prevention.

A recent accident, poor working environments, unsocial hours and lack of job security can all add to work-related stress, which costs the UK nearly £4bn a year. Prevention should focus on tackling causes and developing coping strategies.

Up to 3,000 people develop occupational asthma in the UK each year. Following safe practices in your job and attending work-related health checks can help in prevention. Once asthma develops, further exposure should be avoided.

Noise at work
Over 1m workers are exposed to dangerous noise levels. If you have to raise your voice to be heard then noise is over 85dB, close to the 90dB level that can damage ears if sustained over eight hours. Exposure to 140dB causes immediate damage so ear protection must be worn at all times in designated areas.

Asbestos is the greatest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Workers should proceed cautiously if they suspect asbestos is present and should use protective equipment and clear up waste as they go, as well as washing before breaks.