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Sheila Pantry Associates Ltd


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Advancing education in all aspects of Health and Safety at Work: National Health and Safety Groups in the UK

April 2001
Sheila Pantry, OBE

The Health and Safety Groups are typically British organisations, independent, voluntary and still, as far as can be gathered, unique across the world.

The groups were set up, shortly after the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents' (RoSPA) formation in 1917, as a joint venture between RoSPA and the UK Factory Inspectorate to provide local platforms for the raising of standards of occupational health and safety by refresher training and pooling experience.

The first Group (Sheffield) dates back to 1920 and there are now some 80 of them located across the UK. Their basic role is to organise local employers and others with an interest in health and safety to meet together to discuss ways of improving health and safety standards.

First in Training and other initiatives

The Groups have contributed in a positive way in fulfilling their role. They were responsible for the first organised industrial safety training in this country, and, it is believed, in the world, and were instrumental in establishing the professional organisation - the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). They also took the initiative in pressing for the first University Department in Health and Safety to be set up in this country at Aston University in 1970. They have played a key role in introducing health and safety into school curricula.

Local Forum

They remain today a major forum for local problem solving on health and safety issues, representing companies, managers, safety representatives and safety and health professionals, and bringing in the local law enforcing agencies.

For a small annual fee any organisation and/or individual can join its local Group, so membership covers large and small employers, local authorities, universities, health authorities, training organisations, retail businesses, insurance companies, banks and even schools. In fact any organisation anxious to improve its health and safety standards and to keep up to date with changes in health and safety law and policy is welcomed.

Activities and aims

The Groups aim to advance education in all aspects of health and safety at work and to promote the provision of safe and healthy working environments for the public benefit. This is achieved through:

  1. providing assistance to and help to co-ordinate the work of the independent, voluntary and non profit making Health and Safety Groups, some 80 in the UK, to disseminate information to all Groups, to publicise the work of the Groups and to advise the National Occupational Safety Committee of RoSPA on matters justifying national consideration;
  2. holding quarterly Council Meetings around the UK hosted where possible by a local Group;
  3. recognising good practice with the annual "Alan Butler Awards for Excellence" scheme with the presentation of awards taking place at the House of Lords in January;
  4. organising a stand at the annual Safety and Health Exhibition held at the NEC in Birmingham;
  5. membership - which is open to any qualifying Health and Safety Group that wishes to participate.

NHSG Council

The National Health and Safety Groups Council, established in 1947, is the coordinating body for the Health and Safety Groups located in all parts of the UK.

The Council has always had the support of RoSPA who provides the Secretariat and provides free publicity to the Groups in its monthly magazine OSH. The Officers of the Council are all Honorary posts who devote considerable time and energy in the running of the national body. The Council is a registered charity.


The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) & Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as an official intermediary supports the work of the Council and individual Groups. The Council is affiliated to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

If you have a Health and Safety Group and wish to become a member contact for further details:

Secretary, NH&SGC c/o RoSPA, Edgbaston Park, 353 Bristol Road, Birmingham, B5 7ST
Tel: +44 (0)121 248 2000
Fax: +44 (0)121 248 2001

Registered charity No 1048425 and voluntary organisation.

With thanks to NHSG Chairman Roy Gill for supplying the information.

Sheila Pantry is Editor/Compiler of Health and Safety World. She also runs an information consultancy specialising in health and safety information, particularly computerised information, and is a partner publisher with SilverPlatter Information Ltd