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The right to work safely

23 January 2013

Neil Jowsey looks at current and future trends in health and safety management, from product developments to the new buzzword of "sensible safety" What value do we place on a human life? It's a fairly basic question an

Neil Jowsey looks at current and future trends in health and safety management, from product developments to the new buzzword of "sensible safety"

What value do we place on a human life? It's a fairly basic question and one that many might choose to answer by looking at personal circumstances, geographical or cultural influences. To me the answer is simple - a human life is priceless no matter where in the world you live, what you contribute to society, and what your personal wealth might be. We all have a right to live and work safely and to be valued.

For those of us in the business of helping to keep people safe at work, the debate about personal and organisational risk is alive and at the forefront of many people's minds. Many factors are at work here; the Government's interest in getting health and safety legislation in proportion, the current economic climate that leads to questions about cost and benefit and the continuing stories of 'elf and safety' being blamed for preventing us enjoying ourselves and for being adventurous.

The results of Professor Lofstedt's review of health and safety legislation have been widely debated. Some of the changes he recommended have already been implemented and the timetable for the rest moves swiftly on. Consultations are underway on a number of issues and there are opportunities for all of us involved to make our views known.

In the meantime, the HSE's preliminary statistics for fatal injuries in 2011/12 record 173 fatal accidents at work. In comparison to other EU member countries, Great Britain has the lowest rate of fatal injuries and I have no doubt that good legislation, hard work by those involved in workplace safety management and access to some of the most sophisticated safety products have all contributed to this.

Sensible safety So where will any improvements be made and is legislation such a burden to businesses that it's making us 'switch off' our health and safety radar? Sensible safety is the new buzz word and to my mind it's all about being proportionate in what we do. Expecting an individual to take sole responsibility of understanding and managing all the risks involved in working with heavy machinery or in a hostile environment is expecting too much. This is where guidance, training and rules really do need to apply. But at the same time, each individual must understand and appreciate what is the sensible thing to do and how his or her actions can result in danger to others as well as to themselves.

In terms of safety product development, the world is our oyster.

The technical developments in material design and manufacturing are really astonishing and more easily accessible, driving improvements in wearer comfort and acceptance which are where the real achievements lie. Making sure we provide products that people want to wear, that are comfortable to wear in the environments in which they work and that do the job properly is our goal and through partnerships with some of the world's leading designers and manufacturers we aim to achieve this.

We continually research and talk to our customers to find out what's really important to them and looking and feeling good as well as keeping safe are top of their list. This is why style, fit, comfort, design and branding are all key elements in making a product acceptable. We also have to make it easy to select and buy, so providing expert advice as well as options for the way products can be ordered and delivered are all part of the overall package.

Balancing protection and cost Cost management remains an important issue and we understand how important it is to make safety products accessible for all those that need to use them. More often than not, investing in the right kit is an obligation rather than a personal choice and being able to afford the reliable equipment could be a challenge. We've listened to what customers are saying and have introduced a range of affordable, compliant, quality safety products called Arco Essentials. The range will provide head to toe protection that should suit any budget.

So it comes down to making some smart choices about protecting life. Choosing to act in a way that doesn't put you and those around you in danger and choosing the right products to protect you.

Neil Jowsey is marketing and business development director at Arco.