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A year at the helm

24 November 2017

HSM caught up with Institution of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH) chief executive Bev Messinger, on day two of the 2017 IOSH Conference, to reflect on her first year in the post and to discuss the organisation's plans for 2018

How has this year's IOSH conference gone?

Bringing the conference to Birmingham (before it was in London), moving the dates from June to November (20-21st November, ICC Birmingham) and bringing it in-house for the first time for a long time has been quite complex. But the exhibition stands look amazing and I'm delighted with the content. On day one we had really excellent speakers including Stephen Martin (director-general of the IOD) who are our headline sponsor and with whom we're doing a lot of collaborative work with. That's all about putting occupational health and safety at the heart of business, and being really business- and productivity- focused, as opposed to just being technical experts.

We had Matthew Taylor (chief executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA)) talking about the gig economy and what the implications are for occupational safety and health.

We also launched our new qualification – the NCFE IOSH Level 3 Certificate in Safety and Health for Business – which we're really excited about. It's a really big deal for the organisation to have its own qualification for the first time.

Today we had a keynote speech from Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson who was just awesome in terms of being motivational and talking about resilience, planning and success. So there's been a really good buzz about the whole conference so far.

What's your first 12 months in the post of IOSH chief executive been like?

It's been amazing. I joined the organisation at a really important time when they were planning their five-year strategy WORK 2022 so I was able to put a bit of my own stamp on that and how I wanted to bring that to life. 

We've got three strands to our strategy: enhance the profession, collaborate with like-minded bodies, and influence globally. We launched it with our chair and president in Qatar in April. That went really well and we streamed it for the first time ever on Facebook and got nearly 30,000 views.

In May and June we then launched an internal transformation programme 'Transforming Together' and that's about making the organisation more modern and agile so we can support the membership better. 

We've also launched a new structure for the organisation that is more aligned to delivering the strategy and the transformation. I have two new directors starting soon too.

Kris De Meester (chairman of Health and Safety Working Group Business Europe) was talking in one of the sessions yesterday about how important it is to enjoy what you do. It made me reflect on the fact that I haven't been this happy in a job for a long, long time. 

What health and safety topics are you most passionate about?

I've worked in human resources (HR) and managed health and safety for many years. I'm passionate about the profession really stepping up to the plate and becoming strategic business leaders in the same way I believe HR has. Ten years ago we didn't have a voice at board level and we weren't taken seriously as a profession. I think we can learn from what HR has done to get at those top tables.

The other thing for me is health and wellbeing in its broadest sense. We need to understand that people bring their whole selves to work they don't just bring their technical capabilities. They bring their problems and they bring their family issues. You need to look after the whole person and then they'll be happier, they'll be more productive and you'll retain them. 

What are your plans for the next 12 months?

We've done a lot of work this year on enhancing the profession, which is culminating in the launch of the qualification. The other two strands of the strategy we need to do more work on. We're looking at a global operating model for IOSH -– how do we work more effectively in the 130 countries that we operate in and serve the membership better? How do we use our research, development and capability across the world to make a difference?  

The next phase of our 'No Time To Lose' campaign on occupational cancer is really important to us – it will focus on the most significant workplace carcinogen, asbestos – and we will also continue to develop those collaborations with people we want to work with.   

 
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