Health and Safety - an evolutionary process? Cornerstone or millstone?
Sheila Pantry, OBE
A newly published document from the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) entitled "Strategic Thinking - work in progress" calls for ideas to help them in their thinking on the strategic direction of occupational health and safety over the next 10 years. The timescale is short - replies needed back by 13 August 2003. You can send ideas by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by using the feedback form on www.hse.gov.uk/consult/live.htm or alternatively send a written response to HSE Strategy, Strategy and Intelligence Division, 8NW, Rose Court, 2 Southwark Bridge, London SE1 9HS, UK.
The strategy for health and safety in Britain needs to keep evolving in order to keep ahead, or at least, maintain pace with the changing working environment. This is how it should be in all other countries. HSE's vision is to gain recognition of health and safety as a cornerstone of a civilised society, and with that achieve a record of workplace health and safety that leads the world. Since 1830s, yes the 1830s, Britain has been moving workplace health and safety along, but much still needs to be done - with over 40 million working days lost to injury and ill health every year there is much room for improvement. Britain has a good safety record, but certainly does NOT lead the world in occupational health. It is in this area that more efforts will be needed as the workplace new and emerging challenges continue to appear. Training and awareness of health in the workplace is much needed.
The paper suggests 5 big issues that present the most significant opportunities and threats to occupational health and safety over the next 10 years:
- A changing economy in a changing world. Not only do technology and globalisation continue to affect the nature of competition, but factors such as an ageing workforce and changing attitudes to risk-taking and responsibilities will also have significant effects.
- Health issues. Issues such as stress and musculo-skeletal disorders have come to the fore as key contributors to the 40 million working days lost each year to occupational ill health and injury. This presents challenges in terms of both the skills required of health and safety professionals and the linkages with wider government emphasis on creating a healthy, productive and more inclusive workforce.
- Public Protection and Security. There has been growing demand for HSC/E's public protection role to expand, pushing the organisations towards new areas, some of which are already regulated by other authorities and some of which lie significantly outside the core expertise of HSE.
- Role of local authorities. Changes in the economy away from manufacturing and towards the services sector mean that the number of businesses for which local authorities have enforcement responsibilities has greatly increased. These are also the businesses where "newer" health issues are particularly prevalent. Whilst there is some excellent work done by some local authorities, the picture is inconsistent and the overall resource dedicated to health and safety enforcement continues to fall year on year.
- Managing the business. HSE has undergone major change in recent years to concentrate effort more directly on achieving its targets: reductions in the numbers of people killed, injured and made ill by work. The organisation needs to go further in becoming more flexible and responsive to change in order to maximise its effectiveness.
HSE invites feedback on its thinking to date. Comments will contribute to a draft strategic plan for 2004-10 to be published as a consultation document in the early autumn
Meanwhile OSHWORLD continues to bring you news, publications, web sites that you will find useful in your daily work. Look at the latest additions to the Diary of Events and you will see plans have been made already worldwide up to 2005 to have training courses, symposiums and conferences in many places in the world on a wide range of subjects. Don't forget that on 3 November 2003 there will be a major conference on Food Safety in Europe FSE2003.
On 4 - 5 November 2003 Eurohse2003 takes place also in London, UK. This is a major event for all occupational health and safety practitioners and managers. Already bookings have been made for both conferences. So do not wait until it is too late to get into these important events.
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Hope you have a zero accident and incident-free year in 2003 in your workplace.