Goals for the Health & Safety of Great Britain Strategy
3 February 2009
The HSE is presenting its new strategic Goals for Great Britain to around 800 attendees at UK wide workshops. We were delighted to attend one and to provide this feedback to our user community.
Delegates generally agreed with the goals, listed below, except to argue that the first two should be reversed, thus emphasising the importance and need of strong leadership.
During detailed discussion communication was, inevitably, the main feature seen to require constant attention. Communication of a 'safety culture' in which the workplace wanted to comply was mentioned time and again. There was a preference to this rather than one in which the workforce are compelled to conform to rules; useful though the guidelines are.
With an ever shrinking HSE workforce, they made it clear that they are looking for even more support. Local Authorities government agencies and other 'large' employers are natural partners. SME's are the hardest to target; there are so many of them and with very individualistic objectives.
The discussion generated two significant proposals to support the HSE as their 'partners';
- An accreditation system for suppliers of H&S products and services
- Integration of H&S issues into quality systems
These proposals are discussed below, together with a brief report on the proceedings at 'our' table at the workshop. Feedback would be helpful.
We are following up the accreditation idea up with the HSE. Prospective clients continually ask us, as part of their procurement process, whether our products are approved by the HSE. Our standard answer is “the HSE are unable to recommend any products or services because they would be seen to be favouring particular suppliers”.
In the current strategy, the HSE have stated (at the workshop) that they are looking for partners to help them 'spread the word' about H&S and improve the 'safety culture' of the working environment. We back them 100% in this endeavour and are more than ready to help them even more than we currently do. The benefits of this synergy can be significantly enhanced by the HSE's support for an accreditation scheme designed to offer users confidence in H&S products which they are considering. We will report back on our progress in due course.
Health, Safety and Quality Systems
Ai Solutions has spent a long time putting its quality systems in place and we are proud of the progress we have made. Quality is the heart of what we do; like health & safety. However, protecting the health and safety of our staff and visitors is not a major risk management challenge in our company; crossing the road outside the office is about the most risky thing we do close to work! Construction workers on temporary sites will have a completely different perspective. However, the solution could be the same for everyone involved. If we managed health and safety alongside and as part of our quality system then surely we would have the appropriate processes in place to manage our risks and reduce exposure to accident as at work.
Report by attendees: Goals for the Health & safety of Great Britain Strategy
The first undertaking was for HSE to restate and reaffirm its direction in the context of Great Britain's health and safety performance levelling out after many years of continuous improvement.
The HSE recognised that there was a strong co-regulator partnership between itself and Local Authorities, but also advocated that everyone with health and safety responsibilities should work together towards a set of common goals and improved standards of performance.
The HSE recognised the need for each of the stakeholders, employers, self-employed, manufacturers, suppliers, trade unions as well as the HSE and Local Authorities to understand their roles and become better at executing their responsibilities.
The HSE set out the following goals to achieve its strategy:
- To continue investigating work related accidents and ill health and taking enforcement action to prevent harm and to secure justice when appropriate.
- To encourage strong leadership in championing the importance of, and a common sense approach to, health and safety in the workplace.
- To motivate focus on the core aims of health and safety and, by doing so, to help risk makers and managers distinguish between real health and safety issues and trivial or ill-informed criticism.
- To encourage an increase in competence, which will enable greater ownership and profiling of risk, thereby promoting sensible and proportionate risk management.
- To reinforce the promotion of worker involvement and consultation in health and safety matters throughout unionised and non-unionised workplaces of all sizes.
- To specifically target key health issues and to identify and work with those bodies best placed to bring about a reduction in the number of cases of work related ill health.
- To set priorities and, within those priorities, to identify which activities, their length and scale, deliver a significant reduction in the rate and number of deaths and accidents.
- To adapt and customise approaches to help the increasing numbers of SMEs in different sectors comply with their health and safety obligations.
- To reduce the likelihood of low frequency, high impact catastrophic incidents while ensuring that Great Britain maintains its capabilities in those industries strategically important to the country's economy and social infrastructure.
- To take account of wider issues that impact on health and safety as part of our continuing drive to improve Great Britain's health and safety performance.
Delegates at the Strategy Consultation Workshop listened to a presentation by the Chief Executive of the HSE, after which they were asked to consider a number of questions and provide table by table feed-back on their discussion in a plenary session.
Each table consisted of professionals generally from the same sector of industry, for example, teachers, consultants, trade unions, contractors etc. Tables fed back their comments in turn. No one group managed to give clear answers to every question and understandably each had a slightly different perspective reflecting their different sectors of the industry. Our table consisted of delegates from CDM related consultancies, including two from Ai Solutions. Our feedback (with some additional material) was as follows:
Question 1 - Do you support the goals as set out in the strategy and are there any omissions?
As with all of the groups, we supported the goals set out in the strategy. We felt strongly that the first two goals were set out in a “stick before the carrot” order and should be transposed. The consultants felt that education and communications were not covered sufficiently within the strategy despite their over-arching role in achieving a number of goals and delivering improved performance. Members of the group had discussed the culture within some voluntary and charity organisations whose members didn't feel the need or desire to change their “ways of old”.
We compared large corporations and Local Authorities, who are generally very well informed on H&S matters, with Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Whilst recognising that ignorance is no defence, we questioned how many or, possibly most, SMEs learn about new Health and Safety initiatives and regulations - who informs and advises them?
Question 2 - How can you / your organisation help us deliver the goals?
Consultants, including Ai Solutions, are already helping HSE to deliver the goals. They bring expert knowledge, management systems and competent, pragmatic and proportionate advice to their customers. It is the nature of their business and why they exist. We also raised the question of how HSE can help consultants to better help their clients to achieve HSE's goals and suggested some form of kite mark / accreditation scheme for consultants which could be endorsed by HSE.
Questions 3 and 4 - Can you help us to identify others who have a role to play in delivering the goals as set out in the strategy? Who else should HSE and the Local Authorities be engaging with to help deliver the goals in the strategy?
These questions concerned identifying others that may assist HSE to achieve their goals. The consultants suggested that Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and GPs could better inform and educate the public about work-related injuries and diseases and thereby enable them to recognise and deal with them. There was a suggestion that Local Authority Building Control Inspectors (and we assume the NHBC who also undertake Building Control) might take more of an enforcement role, but there were questions as to the practicability and desirability of this.
The consultants suggested that the Institute of Directors and trade organisations should also have a role to play and could create leverage through the supply chain, perhaps through a competency assessment scheme. Other suggestions included the voluntary sector, charities and community groups.
Question 6 - What parts of which goals in the strategy are best delivered by others?
Not discussed here.
Questions 5 and 7 - What should HSE and Local Authorities do differently to help deliver the goals in the strategy? What can your own and other organisations do differently to help in the delivery of this strategy?
From the consultant's perspective it was felt that HSE and Local Authorities should improve the marketing of their services and products. Central to this is identifying key personnel within companies and organisations who are self-motivated to improve their Health and Safety performance. It was also considered that an HSE supported kite-mark or accreditation scheme, as mentioned above would be valuable in identifying those consultants who could demonstrate the highest standards to prospective clients.