To mark this year’s European Week for Safety and Health at Work – co-ordinated by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EUOSHA) and its partners – Clare Pike, HR director (North West Europe) at Bureau Veritas, discusses best practice in promoting sustainable working and creating a healthy workplace for all ages.  

It’s estimated that by 2030 at least 30 per cent of workers in Europe will be aged between 55-64 years[1]. This increase in an ageing workforce has been compounded by retirement ages rising and the resulting expectation that many people will have to work for longer. It’s therefore critical that this particular age bracket of workers in the later stages of their career are supported but also that younger workers beginning their employment journey are protected, to ensure that they can manage the demands of a longer working life in a safe and healthy working environment.

The 2016-17 Healthy Workplaces Campaign spearheaded by EU-OSHA and promoted during the European Week for Safety and Health at Work focuses on Healthy Workplaces for All Ages. The main objectives of the campaign centre on the promotion of sustainable work and healthy ageing from the start of the working life, preventing health problems and providing ways for employers and workers to manage occupational safety and health. The crux of the subject is that by considering best practice and putting in place long-term safe and healthy working conditions from the start of someone’s working life benefits not only the employees themselves but also business and society overall.

The Testing, Inspection and Certification (TIC) industry is relatively innovative in its approach to an older workforce and celebrates the value of the experience that comes with age. Bureau Veritas is one such example of this, with a large proportion (49 per cent) of our workers aged 46 years and above, with just 25 percent aged under 35 years.

Much more than focusing on age however, it is crucial to have a unified approach across a business to champion the safety and wellbeing of the entire workforce.

Benefits of a diverse and experienced workforce

As a people business, we rely on our people to provide a first class service to our customers – so identifying, developing and retaining highly talented individuals – whatever their age – is core to our people strategy.

Our customers also appreciate the benefits that come with experienced workers. Many of our workforce are engineers, who are responsible for inspecting critical equipment; the potential failure of which could have significant consequences. In these situations, the knowledge, expertise and confidence that comes with experience is highly sought after.

Embedding a culture of health, safety and wellbeing

From a business perspective, safety is the number one priority and, as such businesses should employ a robust duty of care to protect their workforce. We often operate in demanding environments that could become potentially dangerous if not managed properly. In these scenarios, it’s easy to focus on the physical risk of potential injury and ignore general health and wellbeing in the workplace – both for those working off-site and those who work in an office. This is why, whether for field or office-based staff, a culture of health safety needs to be embedded in the organisation.

At Bureau Veritas we have several initiatives in place to encourage safe and healthy working practices. The ‘Take 2’ initiative for example, encourages workers to stop and take the time ahead of each job to review the situation and ensure that it is safe to proceed. If uncertain in any way, our workforce is empowered to stop what they are doing until they are confident that they are safe. The

‘Fit for task’ initiative was also introduced this year for employees working at height and in confined space. As well as access to a mobile health and safety unit, ‘fit for task’ also offers a series of core health checks such as blood pressure monitoring. This links in to a wider occupational health referral scheme that we have in place, to ensure that any potential health issues are flagged at an early stage (confidentially).

Protecting and retaining workers

To retain and protect more experienced employees, we encourage those who would like to move away from work ‘in the field’ to consider a consultative role within the business. As part of this approach we are introducing a mentoring scheme, for experienced engineers to share their knowledge and help train the next generation. Alongside this, we offer flexible working patterns, so when possible those who would prefer not to work full time do not feel pressured to do so. This allows us as a business to capture and retain the knowledge that is so valuable to the industry. We are lucky to have retained some of our experts well into their 60s and 70s and we very much hope to continue to provide a safe and comfortable working environment for all of our workforce.

We also take occupational safety and health (OSH) seriously for our office-based staff. We review our office design and conduct health and safety assessments on a regular basis. A number of initiatives are in place or being trialled across the business in North West Europe to encourage healthier working environments, including the provision of healthy lunches and flexible benefits such as gym membership and health checks.

Workplace safety and health is always evolving and it’s important to never shy away from change and consider new and innovative ways to improve the wellbeing of your workforce, whatever their age. Many people are hesitant to discuss the subject of an ageing workforce, when in our opinion it doesn’t have to be a differentiator – it’s part of an overall approach to providing a safe and healthy working environment for your whole workforce. It’s never too late to introduce additional measures and even small changes can often make a significant difference.

Bureau Veritas is proud to be one of the select organisations to achieve the UK’s Top Employers Award for four years running[2]. The company was also a recipient of two prestigious RoSPA Occupational Health and Safety Awards in 2016, for the fourth year running.

This year’s European Week for Safety and Health at Work takes place between 24 – 30 October 2016.

[1] EU-OSHA (