Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

December 9, 2016

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In conversation with Anne Godfrey, Chief Executive of the CIEH

Anne Godfrey_2016 (2)


SHP’s Lauren Applebey talks to Anne Godfrey, who moved to her role as the Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health earlier this year, from her previous role at the Chartered Institute of Marketing where she served as Chief Executive since 2012. Anne talks about the challenges within her role, the CIEH and within the profession as a whole. This interview was originally published in April 2016.


Congratulations on your new role as Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. What does your role entail?

 My role presents lots of challenges that are typical of a professional body.  We all face very similar changes we just do different versions of the same type. CIEH has been doing what it’s been doing for 140 years and some things work and some things don’t. It’s going to be fun!

What are the biggest challenges overall in environmental health at the moment?

 The biggest challenges we face are recognition and understanding. Making sure our profession knows what it is there to do and that our wider stakeholder group, including government, understands what environmental health is there to do, which fundamentally is to protect the public.

Tied into that you have the impact of austerity on our local authority and public sector members. I ask myself what is the good thing about austerity? You have to be innovative as you have less money and fewer people but you have to make sure your consumers are protected. So for CIEH and the profession it’s making sure that in a very difficult economic environment we are doing what were created to do, and that’s protecting consumers.

What are CIEH’s focuses for this year?

We need to be modern, relevant and engaging. We need our members to know what we are here to do which is to support them throughout their careers. We need to have a clearer membership proposition. We are looking at three external strategic programmes – one around our membership, so it’s the access into the professions looking at multiple routes to get new people coming in,  apprenticeships schemes, universities, people who end up accidentally as EHPs – they are accidentally in the private sector and we need to support and train them.

So, it is an entire thing about access in and through appropriate learning, not just education, as some of that would be universities and some of that would be providing opportunities for CPD, specialist skills, upskilling and moving sideways, and membership (what we do from 18-88). It is as much about supporting people as they are getting in, as well as asking our more experienced members to give back. I think a lot of what a professional does, when they have the skills and knowledge, is to support and mentor the people coming through. It’s as much what they can do for CIEH as what we can do for them.

But also it is about a clearer proposition at each stage, what do they get as they develop, listening to them and actually doing it.  Membership bodies aren’t always as good as listening as they should be.

So learning, membership, voice and visibility. We need to be the voice of our profession, both for the profession and for its stake holders, we need to be helping government make good decisions and again being more strategic in what we say and when we say it – in a positive proactive way working with partner organisations and agencies. We have multiple government departments that care about environmental health and we are not owned by anyone, so we have to make sure we are talking to all of them. We have multiple stakeholders from public health to health and safety to the Food Standards Agency – so lots of agencies we need to be talking to and working alongside. And then there’s anywhere our members are, we should be there too, standing up for what they do.

“We have an ethical responsibility to create healthy and safe environments. It’s why CIEH exists.”


What are your thoughts on the HSE’s new strategy, and particularly the focus on tackling ill health?

What I love about the new strategy is it’s not about what you don’t do; it’s not the old fashioned health and safety is a tick box exercise stopping people from doing things – it’s actually about everything and particularly the emphasis on well-being – both mental and physical.

Anybody who works in an organisation, whether it’s occupational health or any wider environmental health has to be thinking about the people and what they can do to make the work environment better and safer.  And also the importance of considering work related stress – so essentially anything from asbestos to stress – it’s a very wide field but a very clear strategy.

I like the fact that there’s a focus on SMEs which can be anything from a one-man-band to 250 people, so it makes it difficult to say they are one category, but they do need a slightly different level of support than a FTSE100 with all the resources that it’s got.

The construction industry recently held a summit to discuss the importance of health in health and safety. Do you think people are finally getting on board with giving both health, and safety an equal billing?

I think they are beginning to take it more seriously, for good reason as it’s the right thing to do, and for brand reasons as it the right thing to be seen to do. Both of those are equally valid.  If it protects people in the workplace and/ or customers, passengers it can only be a good thing. I still think there is a way to go and some sectors are more reticent than others.

The safety differently concept looks at the positive side of safety and the ethical responsibility we have to keep people safe. What are your thoughts on the movement and do you see CIEH incorporating and/or promoting this way of thinking?

I loved it. I hadn’t come across it until I got this job. I went off and looked at the book, read the blog and it makes complete sense to me. People aren’t the problem they are the solution. There is no such thing as a safe world; it’s a human construct. We have an ethical responsibility to create healthy and safe environments. It’s why CIEH exists.

I suspect, having read it, for some people it will be – not precisely alien – but probably a little bit trendy, so I imagine some practitioners will be slightly reticent to take it on board. But anything that makes people think about health and safety in a slightly different way, in a more positive way – which is acknowledging that we can do everything we can as individuals and employers to get the right attitude towards it, to not gold plate it, but be appropriate, fit for purpose, risk based and use people to fix it.

SHP has had huge support for its women in health and safety group. How do you think the health, safety and environmental health professions are changing for women?

Environmental health has always been a very attractive sector profession for women. At the moment it’s about 50% female and 50% male and that gets higher if you go under the age of 35, with our membership up to around 70% female. It’s very attractive to women as the environments, both private and public sector, tend to be supportive of flexible working and return from maternity and making sure women get the right training when they come back. So we are seeing an increase in the number of women in our profession.

However, diversity is about much more than gender. I would hope that environmental health would want to be a diverse profession – that would be race, religion, ethnicity, and sexuality – not just women in the workplace. What I would love as a woman is for our profession to not have to talk about women in the workplace. The day that we don’t have to have this conversation anymore is the day that we are there. Good employers want a diverse workforce and diverse workforces are more effective. I would expect any good employer to help anybody to develop and deliver.

In summary, after eleven weeks in the role, is there anything else you would like to add

The environmental health profession covers a multitude of subjects, technical specialisms, and I sometimes think that health and safety is the one that gets left behind. The HSE strategy raises the awareness of it; it’s not just something you have to do it’s something really important that adds value in a workplace, makes people safe and well. It shouldn’t be the poor relation; it’s the thing that people have to do and certain attitudes get in the way of people feeling proud of it.

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