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IOSH appoints new chief executive

20 April 2021

THE INSTITUTION of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has appointed Vanessa Harwood-Whitcher as its new chief executive.

Currently IOSH’s director of professional services, Vanessa will succeed Bev Messinger, who retires this summer.

IOSH is the global chartered body for occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals. In her existing role, which she has held since November 2017, Vanessa has overseen significant improvements in the support IOSH offers its members and enhancement in the standing of the OSH profession, a key objective of the Institution’s five-year strategy.

Her appointment comes at a time when the profession is playing a crucial role in helping businesses continue to operate during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

IOSH has supported its members from the outset of the pandemic and Vanessa is keen to continue this as well as deliver IOSH’s five-year strategy, WORK 2022, and oversee implementation of the new strategy from next year.

She said, “I am delighted to be able to succeed Bev in this important role at such a crucial time for our profession. 

“Under Bev’s leadership, we have made huge strides towards delivering our strategy, enhancing the OSH profession and collaborating with partner organisations to expand our influence in key areas around the world.

“We are really focused on building on this in the coming months and years and I look forward to working closely with IOSH’s members – including our Council and Presidential Team – the Board of Trustees and colleagues within IOSH to secure further progress.”

Among the improvements to IOSH’s membership offer that Vanessa has overseen is the implementation of the competency framework to help OSH professionals develop the broader range of skills, knowledge and behaviours they now need to influence and drive change in workplaces.

Added to this has been the introduction of the Future Leaders community and a new Student Membership category, to ensure there is a pipeline of new talent into the profession. A new Career Hub for members was also introduced, as was a platform to facilitate mentoring among professionals.

Before joining IOSH, Vanessa’s experience included holding senior posts at four other professional bodies: the Chartered Management Institute, the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply, the Association of MBAs and the Association of Corporate Treasurers.

A timeline has not yet been set for the change in leadership at IOSH. Bev will continue in post to facilitate a smooth transition while recruitment begins to replace Vanessa as director of professional services. 

Dr Peter Bonfield OBE FREng, chair of IOSH’s Board of Trustees, led the recruitment of the new chief executive.

He said: “Bev has led IOSH admirably over the past four-and-a-half years, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has been a testing time for all organisations. Both myself and the Board are confident Vanessa can build on this. 

“As Vanessa is already a key member of our senior leadership team, our priority is now to ensure a smooth transition, including ensuring we recruit the right replacement for Vanessa. During this time, there will continue to be no change in leadership, direction or task, and Bev will remain at the helm of IOSH, we expect, until the summer.”

Bev Messinger added, “Vanessa has demonstrated very credible leadership skills as director of professional services, and I look forward to working with her and the rest of the Senior Leadership Team to ensure a smooth transition.

“I’m confident I will be leaving IOSH in very good hands with Vanessa as chief executive, backed up by an excellent senior leadership team.”