|Home>||Trade Body||>BSiF||>CEO's desk - June-22|
|Home>||PPE||>General PPE||>CEO's desk - June-22|
CEO's desk - June-22
04 July 2022
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has just published a new 10 year strategy, supported by a business plan for the coming year which supports the implementation of the new strategy. Alan Murray provides an overview.
THE STRATEGY document titled “Protecting People and Places” heralds a significant shift in the HSE’s orientation and sphere of activity. The clue is clearly in the title and sees the HSE expanding its’ role from the custodian of worker protection. The HSE mission now articulated, as protecting people and places sees their vision as much more holistic where they will be dedicated to protecting people and places and helping everyone to lead safer and healthier lives. The strategy cites external societal changes from the emergence of the gig economy, the development of new technologies and supporting the country’s commitment to net zero.
Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the subsequent inquiry the HSE has been appointed as the Building Safety Regulator and as a result of Brexit they now have an extended role in the regulation of chemicals, formerly managed under REACH.
In addition to the familiar challenges of Health and Safety at work the HSE will now have responsibilities covering the safety of 12,500 buildings, over 20,000 chemicals on the GB market and over 300 biocide and pesticide substances to be reviewed following the exit from the EU.
The HSE budget has been strengthened to provide resource and in year one of the 10 year plan they forecast a spend of £301m with two thirds of that money coming from central government and the balance from recovered costs and external income. By comparison the spend in 2020 totalled £230m.
The strategy outlines the executive’s new responsibilities are clearly widespread and complex challenges, and one has to fear some loss of focus on occupational safety and health. Since 2016 when the then minister Justin Tomlinson claimed “safety was sorted” we have seen a gradual and sustained emphasis on ill health and indeed the new strategy infrequently mentions “safety”.
I have briefly outlined some of the expanded responsibilities that the HSE now embraces but in fairness the first strategic objective listed does cover their commitment to reduce work related ill health but with a very specific focus on mental health and stress.
The strategy document highlights that the country has one of the lowest rates of fatal and non-fatal work-related injury across Europe achieved through having well-established standards for safety, recognised and understood by industry. These have helped to reduce death and major injury, particularly in construction and manufacturing.
However, this is not the same for work-related ill health with current trends showing this is increasing. The most commonly reported causes of work related ill-health in Great Britain are now stress, depression, or anxiety. Mental health is indeed a very serious and complex issue and tackling it will present a formidable challenge to HSE. In 2020 there were over 32m days lost to work related ill health with nearly 18 million days lost attributed to stress anxiety and depression. It is therefore easy to see why this area is a priority but one wonders if HSE, albeit supported in some way by the Department of Work and Pensions and the Department of Health and Social Care, are the correct agency to address the problem.
In addition to the focus on mental health, occupational lung disease and musculoskeletal disorders are also recognised as areas for strategic attention before the plan moves on to Building Safety, the support of net zero and the new innovations that will be required to deliver a greener future with de-carbonisation and the emerging use of hydrogen.
I sincerely hope that “safety” does not become marginalised, alongside the HSE expanded responsibilities, though it does feel as if we are continuing down that path.
As most of you know the HSE is responsible for the market surveillance of PPE in the workplace and you will have heard me complaining many times that this activity is well short of what it should be. Of product safety and PPE in the strategy document, despite the recent experience of covid and the ensuing PPE crisis, there is not a mention. Nothing.
BSIF will continue our market surveillance through the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme, which continues to be strengthened and recognised by those procuring PPE and on that subject I am very proud to report that in the Office for Product Safety and Standards, Regulatory Excellence Awards 2022, BSIF came runners up for the work done in Motorcycling PPE led by Paul Varnsverry.
This is continuing recognition of the regulatory work done by the Federation and its’ members and it follows the Registered Safety Supplier Scheme being a finalist in the 2021 awards.
Market surveillance is essential to ensure PPE performs, and wearers kept safe. We are dedicated to this task but we lack a Regulator’s authority. Frankly if not for BSIF’s work, little would be done in this critical area.
The HSE strategy and business plan can be downloaded from the BSIF website https://tinyurl.com/5a2bwdbt and https://tinyurl.com/bdhdecsn
Alan Murray is chief executive officer of BSIF. For more information, visit www.bsif.co.uk