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Tackling Scotland's safety challenges

23 January 2013

With its immense breadth of industry and commerce, the case for holding a health & safety event in Scotland is compelling.Neal Stone explains how the seminar programme has been designed with this breadth in mind and looks f

With its immense breadth of industry and commerce, the case for holding a health & safety event in Scotland is compelling.Neal Stone explains how the seminar programme has been designed with this breadth in mind and looks forward to some lively debate

Health & Safety '10 Scotland and its accompanying seminar programme run in partnership with the British Safety Council, has attracted great interest from organisations and individuals involved in the management of workplace health and safety risks, the supply of safety products and systems and health and safety practitioners from Scotland and the North of England too.

The case for holding this exhibition in Scotland was compelling.

The breadth of Scottish industry and commerce is immense. The agriculture, construction, education, financial services, health, onshore and offshore major hazards, public services, retail, and transport and distribution sectors are major employers and vital to the Scottish and UK economy. But some organisations operating in these sectors, including British Safety Council members and award winners in Scotland, provide much more than this. These include Aramark, BSkyB, Dawn Group, Diamond Offshore Drilling, Glasgow Housing Association, MoD, Norec Longannet Power Station and Shell Exploration and Production.

Network of knowledge Working in these sectors are organisations and individuals who between them are at the forefront of showing health and safety at its best. There is a level of knowledge and competence concerning the management of health and safety risks in Scotland that is truly commendable. The health and safety networks which exist in Scotland are key to driving good performance and are indeed the envy of other parts of the United Kingdom.

The Partnership for Health and Safety in Scotland (PHASS) and the Professional Organisations in Occupational Safety And Health in Scotland (POOSH) both have long and impressive track records of promoting health and safety, developing competence and helping to prevent work-related injury and ill health. The health and safety scene in Scotland is vibrant and influential in shaping not only government policy but also regulatory and enforcement practice. The Scottish trade unions, for example, have been at the forefront in major campaigns to prevent workplace fatalities, including in the construction and offshore sectors, and in securing the new corporate manslaughter and corporate homicide laws.

However the task of preventing injury and ill health in Scottish workplaces has to remain the top priority. Statistics recently published by the HSE revealed that 23 workers were killed at work in Scotland in 2009/10, down slightly on 26 fatal injuries in 2008/09. But this is only part of the picture. There were in 2008/09 2,666 reported major injuries and 8,841 overthree day injuries to workers in Scotland. HSE estimated that 3.1 million working days were lost in Scotland in 2008/09 as the result of work-related injuries and ill health.

Tough approach The consequences of incompetent and irresponsible health and safety management can be tragic, costly and damaging. Five recently reported cases highlight the tougher approach being adopted by the courts, including Sheriff courts in Scotland, to breaches of health and safety law which result in death. In these cases, fines averaging £50,000 were imposed on five employers operating in the agricultural, construction, housing, local authority and security sectors. All of these deaths could have easily been prevented had risks been properly assessed and reasonable safety precautions been put in place.

The issues and speakers for the eight educational seminars at the Scotland Exhibition have been selected with these cases in mind. The British Safety Council was determined the seminars should address major health and safety issues facing employers and workers in Scotland. We wanted to make sure those attending have the opportunity to hear from the regulator - HSE, from key players drawn from business and trade unions shaping and leading PHASS's work, leading health and safety professionals actively involved in building competence and encouraging best practice, and lawyers directly involved in health and safety prosecutions.

The speakers won't shy away from some of the difficult and complex health and safety issues Scottish employers and workers are facing including, for example the impact of reduced resources on HSE and local authorities ability to effectively enforce; the likely implications of Lord Young's review; the vital importance of director responsibility and leadership and workforce involvement; and key legal developments. We are looking forward to some very lively sessions with plenty of challenging questions from the audience.

Neal Stone is head of policy and public affairs at the British Safety Council