Expert predictions for 2016
SHP asks professionals drawn from a diverse range of backgrounds to share their thoughts on what they think will the most important developments for their sector/area of expertise over the coming year.
“2016 will be about recognising that change and evolution are essential to maintaining our world class system and continuing to deliver a world class health and safety performance. Our refreshed overall strategy will provide important context for the whole health and safety system in Great Britain.
“The focus will be on those areas where new direction and motivation are needed and will challenge all those who are part of the existing system to re-examine what they do and to look at how that can raise their game.
“We need to move the debate away from the ‘burdens of health and safety’ to a position where everyone, regardless of size of business, recognises that proportionate and sensible risk management is an integral part of business continuity and success. We will also be emphasising the need for workplace health to be properly addressed alongside safety.
“We already have a great health and safety system in Great Britain but in 2016 we will see it evolve to be even better and we will share our knowledge with others to help them improve.”
Judith Hackitt, HSE chair (regulation)
“IOSH spoke to many organisations in 2015 with a modern, progressive take on the value of safety and health. A private school, a construction firm and a household name in manufacturing were among businesses that perceived it as an investment with dividends in the form of greater resilience, productivity and efficiency.
“OSH is a material issue for every organisation and OSH professionals are in a unique position to generate value creation in their area of work. Improved productivity, attracting and retaining staff, CSR and reputation are only a few of the added benefits of being more ambitious.
“If businesses are raising the bar, the OSH profession has to up its game and develop the skills needed to unlock the full potential of occupational safety and health. The ability to engage, influence and lead are essential elements to being successful in generating change.
“To this end, IOSH is developing a framework for OSH skills to support our members, the wider profession and the organisations they work with. The challenge is to equip safety and health professionals with the skills they require to help businesses prosper.”
Shelley Frost is executive director – policy, IOSH
“Looking at 2016, the main challenges are going to be finding and retaining good staff; there is more demand than availability and that is set to continue. This means the focus for selection should be more oriented to the ‘personality fit’ and the ability to develop technically rather than ticking all the technical requirements. Clients should also be able to ‘sell’ what makes their organisation a desirable place to join when candidates have multiple choices. They will also need to work through the recruitment process more quickly as delays cause disappointment.
“Organisations should be realistic about how long they expect ambitious people to stay with them if career progression opportunities are limited. It is currently a challenge attracting young people into a career in health and safety with fewer first-degree courses on offer. If a young person has good interpersonal skills, it is well worth taking a gamble by offering them a trainee role and providing the right opportunities to study while working. The result will be loyal, hard-working, long-term staff.”
Shirley Parsons, CEO, Shirley Parsons Associates (recruitment)
“The most significant development in 2016 will be the new sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences and corporate manslaughter, taking effect in February. In many cases fines will dramatically rise for larger organisations. For individuals convicted of a health and safety offence where there has been a fatality the prospect of imprisonment is brought much closer.
“As a consequence, the way organisations and their senior management respond to a criminal investigation will be likely to change because the stakes are now much higher. Tactical decisions taken early on with legal advisers may have a significant impact upon the eventual outcome.
“Expect more trials and Newton hearings (fact finding hearings to determine the level of guilt). This overall will lead to a greater scrutiny at court of the prosecution evidence than has occurred in the past. HSE will need to be ready to meet this challenge.
Michael Appleby, partner in London firm Bivonas Law LLP (legislation)
“With 42 site deaths last year, there is no room for complacency in accident prevention – but the challenge is becoming clearer that we need to reach smaller businesses and sites, few of which ever see a health and safety advisor. We also need to be more respectful of the workforce, not just ‘commitment’ briefings, endless inductions and then headshaking when people step outside method statements, but proper engagement and a focus on error not just compliance.
“The industry at the top end is moving rapidly – innovation and new technology requires practitioners to understand apps and hand-held devices, to be open to new ways of working (BIM etc.). The biggest change is in understanding and addressing health and wellbeing during construction and in the finished products through Placemaking. A whole new skill set is required if health and safety is to prove that it can enhance business and for the occupants of new buildings enhance life.”
Lawrence Waterman, director of health and safety and Battersea Power Station Development (construction)
“With increasing focus on austerity, especially in the public sector, there will be massive pressure on the reorganistion of work and workloads. The skill required to do to this without damaging the quality of work, the health of staff and their morale is often lacking in organisations. In the short term the impact could be disastrous.
“Ergonomists and human factors specialists have the skill set to risk assess such changes and advise on the best way to achieve changes. Using such skill sets requires advance thinking and an understanding of the value by senior management.”
Peter Buckle, visiting professor at Imperial College, London (human factors and ergonomics)
“As an academic, educator and practitioner in HSE I can see the growing need for research not only in practice but also crucially on practice. The foundation and principles of health and safety as a positive force in business have been called into question in recent times. As a member of the HSE Myth Buster Challenge Panel I see plenty of examples of where health and safety has been used incorrectly as an excuse not to do something. Thankfully, the vast majority of these complaints do not involve the H&S professionals who are often well educated, professional and very ethical in the way they work.
“However, we can’t be complacent and we need to acknowledge that to some degree the credibility of the profession has been called into question. When faced with such criticism, research evidence and facts are our friend and we need, now more than ever, to take a serious look at how we practise, how we educate ourselves and how we maintain our knowledge, skills and general capabilities. What better way to develop our profession than to carry out meaningful research into how we practise to inform this?”
Dr Shaun Lundy, academic portfolio leader, occupational safety, health, hygiene and environment programmes, University of Greenwich (research)
“As the voice of the wind and marine energy sector, we stand behind our commitment in partnership with our members to deliver health and safety excellence in order to continue to make the UK a leader as a safe and responsible jurisdiction in which to do business. This commitment is genuine and is supported by all key stakeholders in our sector, but there are some major challenges going forward.
“The renewables sector is faced with the demand to reduce costs across the whole supply chain, while continuing to strive for improvements in health and safety performance. This is further set against a challenging political and regulatory landscape.
“However, there will also be major opportunities to make a step change in health and safety standards in our sector. A key area is likely to be a greater focus on ‘safe by design’ across the whole project life cycle. In addition, skills and competence standards are also seen as a major area in which we will aim to drive improvements during 2016 and beyond.”
Chris Streatfeild, director of health and safety, RenewableUK (renewables)
“2016 looks like being a very busy year for the waste sector. With the waste fire tests underway we can look forward at last to having some reliable science to update the, highly controversial, waste fires guidance with. Based on the testing that has already been done I have high hopes that the testing will provide us with significant new insight into the understanding of how fire starts and develops in waste.
“By the end of 2015 WISH will have taken over the administration of the WISH webpages from HSE and launched them on its own website. We look forward to developing and expanding the resources and guidance that we make available to the industry through 2016, including developing WASTE24 (safe cleansing on the highway) the first version of which, after three years of drafting, will finally be published on the WISH website at the end of this year.”
Chris Jones, chair of the Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum (WISH) (waste and recycling)
“In the events industry we need to look up from our detailed risk assessments and think in terms of whole risk and that includes ‘threat’. As the events in Paris have shown there is a risk from arbitrary attack that cannot easily be predicted or foreseen. The start point for any event risk assessment is to consider any issues unique to the venue or location, the activities and the visitor profile. In other words, is this event profile likely to attract the attention of would be attackers or render us more vulnerable?
“Running a disciplined site is a good start but our emergency procedures need to be more nuanced than simply evacuating via the nearest exit for any type of emergency. Health and safety managers are going to have to work a lot more closely with their security counter parts or broaden their outlook and competencies in response to the changing risk profile of their event.”
Simon Garrett, managing director, X-Venture Global Risk Solutions (events)
“The recent statistics published by HSE show that injury rates in food and drink manufacturing are falling faster than ill-health rates. Employers still appear less aware of the progressive damage they are doing to their employees’ health. This may be through exposure to chemicals, additives and flour, MSDs, shift-working and stress caused by the demands the industry is under to service our 24/7 lifestyles.
“The huge challenge facing the industry in 2016 is to improve awareness and identify and address these risks. Just because many cases of ill-health don’t manifest themselves now doesn’t mean that serious harm is being avoided. The long-term health of employees should be the top priority for employers. However, as HSE enforcement tends to target injury rather than health, the threat of being held to account is limited at best.”
David Shorrock, managing director – DS Risk Management Ltd (food and drink)
“For agriculture, it’s ‘back to the future’. Despite significant technological developments, farming remains a most dangerous industry and continues to harvest the same ‘traditional’ crop of deaths and injuries – mainly caused by transport, falls, livestock and machinery.
“Although ripe for wider introduction of auto-steer, remote control and ‘robot’ machines, we need to find new methods to stop people being killed in the same old ways. The pattern of tragic incidents won’t change until we find effective methods to protect operators, e.g. when cleaning machines under power, and providing training more relevant to field conditions. We need to encourage innovation, e.g. by engaging with operators, colleges and designers but improvements can be stifled by international standards and fears of retrospective litigation worldwide.
“Meanwhile, the national Farm Safety Partnership seeks to change the culture, e.g. through initiatives targeting young people and ‘Safe Stop’ – but this will be a long process.”
Alan Plom, vice chair of IOSH’s Rural Industries Group (agriculture)
“2015 has been an interesting year for fire safety, with the lowest number of fire-related deaths in a decade (in the UK). However, globally, the fire safety message is still not reaching the right people as the port explosion in China and fires in nightclubs testify. Closer to home, regional devolution raises the risk of inconsistency of fire safety enforcement and falling fire safety standards if not managed appropriately.
“Looking ahead, the competence of fire safety advisors will come under increased scrutiny, along with the management of fire safety throughout supply chains. This is alongside a push for improving fire safety in homes and rental properties.
“The importance of standards in driving better fire safety management will also feature, with the revision of landmark British Standards and the recent launch of the 9th edition of the Joint Code of Practice for Fire prevention on construction sites.”
Jerry Flechais, vice chair of IOSH Fire Risk Management Group (fire safety)
“The latest Sentencing Council guidelines for health and safety offences have raised the bar. 2016 will be a game changer for manufacturing companies or individuals who deliberately or inadvertently commit health and safety offences.
“Great Britain has one of the leading health and safety records in the world, yet the Sentencing Council has decided that companies and individuals should be subject to much higher levels of fines. This does not seem to be much of a reward for manufacturers who have made huge endeavours in making their workplaces both healthy and safe.
“Successive governments have had concerns about health and safety and the perceived impact on business productivity and innovation. A major review led to a much-needed reconfiguration of Great Britain’s health and safety system. HSE has been instrumental in challenging risk adverse cultures.
“The biggest challenge for the profession in the manufacturing sector will be in making sure that the company they work for and the individuals working in it are not found culpable because they failed to foresee exposure to risk which later led to harm.
“What behaviours will this elicit? I fear the new guidelines may take us back to that risk adverse landscape we have all endeavoured to escape.”
Terry Woolmer, head of health and safety policy, EEF (manufacturing)
“More and more industries are realising that healthy workers mean healthy businesses and with 1.2 million people last year suffering from an illness caused or made worse by work there is still more to do in this area. While most companies will have some information and resource to spend on general health and wellbeing advice for their workers, many still do not realise the importance of preventing the ill health that occurs as a result of the tasks their workers undertake.
“There needs to be a move towards a strategic approach to health and wellbeing that is driven by the principles of prevention in order to ensure that health gets the same focus as safety within all industries. We currently spend more than £8bn on work-related ill health in the UK alone and need to be smarter at recognising the cost benefit of a strategic approach to occupational health and wellbeing.”
Karen Baxter, occupational hygienist, Park Health & Safety Partnership (occupational health)
“Social care will be a fantastic sector to work during 2016. Regulation will be debated, headlines will indicate a reduction in regulation, but primary legislation remains intact – we will help providers to be innovative as they deliver practical safe working solutions in a deregulated landscape. Getting the balance right will be vital.
“Resourcing for care providers will challenge, especially the implications of wage changes and a possible effect on safety – one for us to monitor as well as interpretation of guidance for those services in transition, those which are not registered and those well established such as community and supported living – a person’s home.
“We will keep a watching brief on the changing role undertaken by regulators in respect of incidents, accidents and RIDDOR as they settle in, offering that learning and bridging role where we can; and work with key partners during 2016 to turn around that CQC reported ‘10 per cent of services inspected so far (in England) have been rated inadequate for safety’; so in 2016 we ditch the myths, celebrate success and make safety and health the real deal.”
Chris Jackson, national chair, NASHiCS (social care sector)
“The railway is a hazardous environment featuring high voltage electricity and fast moving heavy machinery, but it’s not just trained workers who have access; passengers and members of the public access the railway too. Making them aware of the hazards and keeping them safe is a unique challenge for the industry.
“Demand for transport of passengers and freight on the railway network is ever increasing, but much of the infrastructure still dates from Victorian times. Upgrading and enhancing the railway while continuing to operate a safe and efficient service is another vitally important challenge. A competent and flexible workforce is key to delivering against these expectations, but this brings challenges of its own, particularly associated with wellbeing for teams working intensively, often in poor weather conditions and antisocial hours.
“Collaboration, investment in technology and continuing development for skilled and competent workers is the way forward. The future is bright for the railway, but communication is key to delivering safety, wellbeing and the flexibility to continue to meet expectations.”
Louise Ward, head of route safety health and environment, Network Rail (railway safety)
“The operational airport environment presents a unique challenge, whereby multiple stakeholders, with differing objectives and levels of responsibility, interact in a time-pressurised environment, conducting maintenance, loading baggage, catering, and cleaning an aircraft, to ensure a flight departs on time.
“With the pressure of fines for ground handlers, caterers and cleaners failing to meet operational targets, the option of taking shortcuts can reap financial rewards, therefore ensuring that health and safety standards remain a priority is a constant challenge. Ensuring that airports, airlines, service providers and regulators all work together to develop good practices, and encourage open reporting culture, is vital to understanding where issues may be arising, and something that requires significant input from the whole airport community.
“Further investigation into the key cultures and behaviours that can manifest either within specific companies, or across whole airport environments, both generally and following incidents, will provide information about the potential for significant incidents to occur, allowing preventative action to be put in place.”
Paul Griffin, health, safety & environment manager, Virgin Atlantic Airways (airline industry)
“Phasing out of fossil fuels is a valid ambition and will presumably eventually happen. Until then, hydrocarbons are still required for fuel, fertilisers, plastics, shampoo, lipstick, washing powder, etc., as well as most of our electricity.
“We now import more than half of our gas so security of supply isn’t getting any easier; in November 2015, National Grid used for the first time its ‘last resort’ emergency powers in an effort to avoid the risk of blackouts.
“We will all be somewhat upset if we don’t have our power at the flick of a switch so don’t be surprised that the government continues to ease regulations in favour of fracking. The UK is apparently literally sitting on supplies of anything between a reported 50 and 350 years. The green movement and climate change lobby will have to work hard to stop it. Meanwhile I’m off to buy a generator.”
Rod Thonger, HSE consultant, oil and gas exploration (fracking)
“This is an exciting and important time for ONR as new build projects gather pace. We look forward to the challenges ahead that will enhance the already vital public service role that we provide. In the next year, we are expecting to work towards making a decision on whether to give NNB Generation Company (HPC) Limited consent to start nuclear related construction at Hinkley Point C; to receive a site licence application from Horizon Nuclear Power for Wylfa Newydd; and to commence the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) for a Chinese reactor technology with the Environment Agency.
“Alongside these key projects, we will continue to assess two existing reactor designs, the UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, which will include a public consultation by the Environment Agency, and the AP1000 as Westinghouse work towards the end of the process. We will also maintain the regulatory advice and challenge that we provide to NuGen ahead of their application for a nuclear site licence in 2017.”
Craig Reiersen, Office for Nuclear Regulation, head of New Reactor Licensing (nuclear new build)
“Health and safety standards continue to gradually improve throughout the Middle East region, prompted by developments in health and safety regulation in many countries. However, as we move into 2016 and regional economies continue to be squeezed by lower oil prices this will present a challenge for delivering improvements in health and safety performance as organisations look to realise cost efficiencies.
“Against this backdrop, health and safety practitioners will need to work even harder to demonstrate the business value of investing in health and safety. This will require exploring new ways of working and embracing innovation in the design and implementation of health and safety practice.
“The changing economic landscape will also create greater demand for skilled health and safety practitioners with a need to maintain commitments to continuing professional development in order to create differentiation in the competitive labour market.”
Rob Cooling, director of health and safety, WSP | Parsons Brinkerhoff (Middle East)