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In the spotlight with Ian Richardson

11 December 2017

Every issue we put a BSIF member in the spotlight to share their thoughts on PPE and worker safety & health. This month we talk to Ian Richardson, board director of The BSIF and standards publishing manager at BSI.

What was your first job?

After graduating from university I was employed as a marketing executive, working in loyalty marketing in the hospitality industry... long before Tesco Clubcard points existed!

How did you get into the safety & health and industry?
I’ve been a standards publishing manager at BSI since 2013, and health & Safety is one of the sectors I cover. It’s a hugely broad remit when it comes to the Standards we publish – from PPE, to explosive atmospheres, to occupational health & safety, and it has certainly been a steep learning curve trying to understand the many challenges people in these sectors face on a day to day basis. I’m still learning!

Who, in any other industry, do you most admire and why?

I think it would probably be someone like Tim Berners-Lee. Without him inventing the world wide web, things would look a lot different in the world right now!

How would you improve the safety & health industry in the UK?

Greater levels of investment and partnerships between the government and the industry itself. Collaboration is the key, and by working together we will see more instances of safety and health improvements in the UK and globally.

What is the best way to combat negative attitudes towards health & safety?

Try to champion the initiatives and hard work that those who are passionate about health and safety are doing in their respective fields. Case studies showing best practice, and the results which can be achieved through positive action – making a difference to as many people as possible – will demonstrate why it’s so important and worthwhile.

What is the best advice you could give to someone new coming into the safety and PPE industry?

From someone who only recently began working within the safety and PPE industry, I would certainly recommend that a first step should be to begin talking to those who have been involved in it for many years, as well as those trying to innovate within the industry. Trade associations, such as BSIF, have committed, hardworking and experienced individuals in them, and the learning that can be found from speaking to them about what they are doing provides a huge step up to anyone coming into the industry.

What do you think the medium term future holds for the safety & health and PPE industry in the UK?

I wonder if we’re going to see some pretty significant changes to the industry as technology advances in the coming years. IOT, AI, Smart tech, all these things will have an impact – whether it be in the manufacturing sector, or the way in which things like PPE are seen in the health and safety industry. It’s certainly something we’re already talking to our stakeholders about and we will see if standards can help in some way too!

If you could invite any three people, dead or alive, to a dinner with you, who would they be and why?

I’m fascinated by the assassination of John F. Kennedy, so maybe JFK, Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey-Oswald - we could try to work out over dinner what actually happened back then!

Occupational Health is a big part of the HSE’s “Helping Britain Work Well” strategy, how do you think safety can retain the profile that it requires?

For example the view within the committee which developed ISO 45001, the new ISO Occupational Health Standard which will arrive in early 2018, is that it will need to be promoted within organizations to ensure greater awareness of top management’s involvement and their need to demonstrate leadership and commitment. They argue that the participation of all workers in some of the decision making needs to be embraced by those in senior roles. The acknowledgement that everyone is a worker will be a new concept to many organizations, but the standard is about occupational health and safety. Occupational health is a massive issue (resulting in substantially more deaths than accidents at work) and it needs to be recognized that ill-health/disease can apply to anyone at work.

Do you see the new sentencing guidelines on health and safety offenses affecting businesses, yet? 

I still constantly see news updates about incidents, accidents and fatalities which have happened at work, and as predicted these have resulted in huge fines for employers. This seems to have had some positive effect on businesses, as the recently released HSE statistics show – 2016/2017 saw the fewest workplace fatalities since records began; according to the HSE, there were 137 fatalities in the UK. The construction sector recorded 30 deaths, also the lowest number on record. This fall is down to continued efforts by employers to raise standards across their sites and the UK remains one of the safest places to work in the world. But I’m sure there is still work that can be done, and lessons businesses can learn from each other about how to effectively manage health and safety at work.