The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has appointed a new committee to provide independent expert knowledge and advice on workplace health.

The workplace health expert committee (WHEC) will be made up of nine members who will provide expert opinion on emerging issues and trends, new evidence relating to existing issues and on the quality and relevance of the evidence base of workplace health issues.

The WHEC will provide scientific and medical advice to HSE’s Chief Scientific Advisor and Director of Research Professor Andrew Curran and to HSE’s Board, and will encourage collaborative working with stakeholders and partners whilst helping to identify issues of potential concern to Government Departments and business.

In particular, the WHEC will focus on chemical and physical hazards and human behavioural or organisational factors in the workplace (such as shift work) that could lead to physiological and psychosocial ill health. It will not focus on wellbeing, sickness absence management or rehabilitation as these issues are dealt with elsewhere in government. The committee will not consider individual cases of ill health or disease.

Professor Andrew Curran said: “I’m very pleased to have secured such a world-class team of experts in workplace health issues which will supplement our own in-house expertise in this area.

“Our statistics show that around 13,000 people die each year from occupational lung disease and cancer as a consequence of past workplace exposures, primarily to chemicals and dusts. In addition, an estimated 1.2 million people who worked in 2013/14 were suffering from an illness they believed was caused or made worse by work, of which 535,000 were new cases which started in the year.

“I look forward to working with the Committee to help us develop new strategies to reduce these and other causes of workplace ill-health”.

Chair of the committee, Professor Sir Anthony Newman Taylor said: “I am delighted to chair this important new HSE committee.

“Policy for health and safety needs to be informed by the best contemporary scientific evidence. It is our role to provide HSE with robust evaluation of emerging evidence of new hazards and new evidence of well recognised hazards. I greatly look forward to working with this distinguished panel of experts to achieve this.”