Dr Karen McDonnell

13 April 2016

The new HSE strategy: a response

A few months ago I wrote about the inquiry into the health and safety arrangements for apprentices, that is being run by RoSPA’s National Occupational Safety and Health Committee (NOSHC).

Before I launch into my latest column, I’d just like to start by thanking those HSM readers who got in touch following our call for respondents to that inquiry – we’re currently looking at all the information we received before releasing the conclusions of our assessment.

As part of that column I also wrote about the HSE’s new strategy, Helping Great Britain Work Well, which I’d like to explore in a little more depth, as it’s important in helping to further the aims of the Great British health and safety community.

RoSPA has consulted with members of NOSHC and collated contributions to join the conversation linked to the new strategy.

Helping Great Britain Work Well has six themes: Acting together; Tackling ill health; Managing risk well; Supporting small employers; Keeping pace with change; and Sharing our success.

Of those, RoSPA particularly welcomes Acting together. The underpinning premise that stakeholders work in partnership to deliver change is one that we support – the NOSHC committee is just one example of how RoSPA is seeking to influence and campaign for change through working in partnership.

RoSPA believes that there is a need to understand what the British health and safety network 'looks like', which could come from discussions as part of the strategy. Such a 'map', with the workplace at the centre, would reinforce the connection to HSE as the prime mover, while signposting businesses to promoters and supporters of better health and safety.

This network could be used to encourage the inclusion of health and safety related information in decision making and engagement with business partners.

Reinforcing the importance of influencing the supply chain, not just the producers and users, there is a need to engage with the designers of plant and equipment and involve them in the conversation.

Within the world of work, inspection and enforcement are not the only tools available to achieve improvements in health and safety performance. RoSPA believes that exemplary sentencing is important, but ultimately education and advice are important in affecting change.

The move towards online communication through the HSE website and associated apps is to be commended, as is the move towards 'Open policy making'.

However, going forward sufficient resource must be devoted not only to maintaining and developing the website and online presence, but in engaging widely across health and safety and other networks that influence the workplace.

Examples include helping to promote work-related road safety (the biggest cause of work time deaths and serious injuries), promoting transfer of workplace health and safety knowledge and skills to help workers stay safe outside work (three to four more injuries to workers occur outside working hours), supporting the health and safety development of apprentices, using the workplace to promote wider health education, working with ACAS on agendas such as absence management and employee involvement and cooperation.

There is a national social and business case for better health and safety (particularly health in its widest sense), based not only on cost saving to employers and the NHS but on using the sensible safety agenda to develop a culture of safety and cooperation at all levels in society. Just like the leaders of our most successful businesses, Government should come to understand the fundamental importance of good health and safety to the success of society, and be prepared to back the strategy with suitable and sufficient funding. RoSPA has articulated the ‘spend-to-save’ potential of good health and safety performance and seeks to influence where opportunities are provided.

Dr Karen McDonnell, occupational health and safety adviser, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA)