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Exhibitor profile: Safety Groups UK

23 January 2013

HSM talks to Safety Groups UK about the role the organisation plays in promoting
health & safety in the UK and how visitors to the Health & Safety Events and HSM
readers can benefit from becoming involved with their local s

HSM talks to Safety Groups UK about the role the organisation plays in promoting health & safety in the UK and how visitors to the Health & Safety Events and HSM readers can benefit from becoming involved with their local safety group

HSM: Safety Groups UK has been a familiar sight at the Health & Safety Events for several years now so regular visitors will be familiar with the organisation's work, but for anyone who isn't, what does Safety Groups UK do?

SG: Safety Groups UK is an umbrella organisation for more than 70 local occupational health & safety groups which exist around the UK. The organisation was established in 1947 and was formerly called The National Health & Safety Groups Council.

Many of the member groups originate from meetings of the original industrial division of RoSPA, the groups have now devolved to operate in their own right, while RoSPA provides the Secretariat for the main organisation. Safety Groups UK's mission is to ensure that these groups are key players in the UK health and safety strategy.

HSM: What kind of organisations will benefit from being a member of a Safety Group?

SG: A broad range of companies are represented within the Safety Groups. The Manchester Safety Group for example counts Manchester United, Kelloggs and Manchester University among its larger members and consequently addresses a wide range of safety topics.

Because membership is by company rather than individual, businesses can send along as many different representatives as they wish depending on the particular issue they want to address.

HSM:What are the key benefits of belonging to a local safety group?

SG: The groups are a source of assistance and knowledge on health & safety. Individual safety groups hold regular briefings on a variety of issues, signposting current topics as well as providing a local forum for communication and discussion between employers, educational establishments, local authorities, trade unions, the HSE and other enforcement agencies.

Although meetings are structured, the atmosphere is very informal so representatives can attend a group and raise a health & safety query without the fear of being judged. Members can also benefit from expert presentations organised by individual groups.

HSM: What kinds of initiatives and issues are typically addressed at meetings?

SG: Maintenance issues frequently come up, especially if they are concerning tasks which only need to be completed once a year or every few years, such as cleaning a tank. In these scenarios it is often the case that other members have completed a similar task more recently and can advise on procedures and lessons learned.

The Safety Groups are a microcosm of modern industrial Britain. Usually someone at a meeting will have the experience someone else is looking for, but if not they will most likely know someone who does. Failing this, meetings are followed up with an email to appeal for expertise so problems are rarely left unsolved.

HSM: So it's about networking?

SG: Absolutely and that's why the informal atmosphere of the meetings is key. It's surprising how many problems can be solved over a coffee and a chat.

HSM: How does Safety Groups see the health & safety landscape in the UK changing and what part will it play?

SG: As HSE cut backs take effect and organisations suffer from a general lack of funding, there will be a need for more self mentoring through networks such as ours.

Safety Groups is also dedicated to helping SMEs get to grips with safety issues as 70% of people in the UK now work for SMEs and they are the most difficult to reach.

In our experience, to reach out to SMEs it is essential to cut through health & safety jargon to distil the major workplace risks. For example, we will refer to "respiratory issues" as "breathing issues" and so on.

To find out more about joining your local safety group, email: contact@safetygroups.org.uk, see: www.safetygroups.org.uk or visit Safety Groups on Stand 144.

With thanks to Mike Nixon and John Cairns.