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Call for health and safety overhaul

17 March 2009

A British safety charity has strongly criticised the Health and Safety Executive suggesting that the government agency is undervaluing the contribution of thousands of safety professionals working in industry. A significant reduction in needless harm and easily preventable suffering would result if the UK’s health and safety system underwent a radical overhaul, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has told a Health and Safety Executive consultation.

Call for health and safety overhaul
Call for health and safety overhaul

The safety charity thinks it's time for HSE to develop a new dynamic between its work and the wider health and safety market, linking its activities much more closely to the hard work of the thousands of professionals who help to ensure effective risk management in the workplace.

HSE produced a consultation document entitled 'The Health and Safety of Great Britain: Be part of the solution'. RoSPA’s response, which was prepared with input from the Society’s National Occupational Safety and Health Committee, draws attention to the true size of the UK health and safety problem which includes work-related road injuries. It also highlights the fact that the business case for controlling losses that result from accidents and ill health is now even stronger in the midst of a recession.

A RoSPA statement said: “HSE faces sharper challenges in delivering its mission with fewer resources. The Government must continue to address the question of HSE funding. Even with additional resources, it is clear that HSE cannot deliver sustainable improvement acting in isolation. The ‘HSE-centric’ view of the health and safety system which has been prevalent in the past must now be abandoned for good.

“Business and people in the workplace - rather than the regulator - need to be placed at the heart of the system,” the statement continued. “HSE needs to make it clear that it sees health and safety professionals as key allies and equals in the struggle to get casualty figures down and not mere auxiliaries.”

RoSPA has the view that the title of the consultation document, ‘Be part of the solution’, might be seen as undervaluing the substantial contribution of the tens of thousands of health and safety activists outside HSE who have been working on this important agenda, many of them for decades. And it might also be seen as ignoring the fact that millions of workers, together with their line managers, safety reps and directors, especially in better performing businesses, are already well and truly ‘on the case’ when it comes to tackling health and safety.

Among the specific recommendations made by RoSPA are: a new focus on proactivity by the HSE, encouraging organisations to go public on their health and safety performance so the HSE can target its resources more effectively; the development of a national health and safety services network, which is kept completely separate from enforcement activities, to help firms identify the services they need; and the use of non-HSE professionals in investigations and remedial programmes.

Tom Mullarkey, RoSPA chief executive, commented: “Improved health and safety performance, particularly at a time of recession, can only be achieved through more creative working between the HSE and other health and safety bodies. The HSE needs to establish new and imaginative relationships with other key actors across the health and safety delivery landscape.

“In the coming months, we hope we will have the opportunity to develop these ideas into programmes that will actually save lives and reduce injuries.”

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