Home >Green shoots of a new type of health & safety?
Green shoots of a new type of health & safety?
23 January 2013
While the new government's passion for health & safety may be up for debate (Lord Young's long awaited review is to be published soon) if there's one thing the coalition has been enthusiastic about its intention to be the â€œgreenest government ever.â€ David Cameron has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 10% in the first 12 months as well as publishing the energy use of government departments in real time
The government is not alone in adopting a greener outlook, but who is responsible for overseeing such measures in a time when there is a focus more on job cuts than recruitment? Research released earlier this year suggests for the large part it could be health & safety managers with over half now holding such responsibilities. A subsequent poll on www.hsmsearch.com suggested 75% of readers had some element of environmental management in their job role; 30% of those people were responsible for the immediate workplace environment and 45% of them were responsible for wider environmental issues including energy efficiency, stack emissions and so on.
Add to this, latest research which suggests that environmental regulations are now outnumbering new health & safety regulations by more than ten to one and a new picture of the priorities of the health & safety manager starts to emerge. Between August 2009 and August 2010 more than 50 new environmental regulations had been introduced in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland while during the same period, just five new health & safety regulations came into effect (full story page 5). Given that in many cases safety managers are already covering an impossibly broad range of subjects (see p18 for further discussion of this issue) is it reasonable to expect them to take on more? Speaking to manufacturers of green products such as ecological cleaning products, they suggest that green options are being adopted slower than expected by companies because old habits and supplier relationships are proving difficult to fracture. With a tradition of instigating change within organisations this is a situation where health & safety managers could help.
The worry occurs when the two subjects, health & safety and the environment, are devalued by being mixed in together. Yes collaboration would make sense and be helpful but surely expertise in reducing emissions of volatile organic compounds or boiler optimisation has little to do with the knowledge necessary for implementing an effective health & safety policy?
Editor, Health & Safety Matters