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August 23, 2006

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Four years of change for the better

Lawrence Waterman, IOSH immediate past president, looks back on his time on the presidential team and urges the profession to continue pressing for change and improvement.

Lawrence Waterman, IOSH immediate past president, looks back on his time on the presidential team and urges the profession to continue pressing for change and improvement.

During my four years (2002-2006) on the IOSH presidential team we’ve set a new course as a profession and shaped a better future for practitioners. Among the changes have been:

– chartered status for Members and Fellows, signalling society’s respect for our work;

– CPD for all who offer themselves as competent persons, ensuring employers have confidence that we are a profession that keeps itself up-to-date;

– changed governance arrangements that bring IOSH into the 21st century, with a small Trustee Board capable of timely decision-making and greater efforts to consult the membership than ever before;

– membership levels that are about to make IOSH the largest health and safety membership organisation in the world, and the development of international branches to match;

– communications that have begun to reflect our significance, challenging the bonkers-conkers brigade when it argues against decent standards.

Charity beyond the home

Although the role of ambassador-in-chief (president) brought an opportunity to visit almost every branch and to represent IOSH at a number of national and international conferences, my memories are dominated by the chance contact and valuable conversations in the margins.

For example, I am very proud of our role in supporting work within the voluntary sector — IOSH helped the publication of the revised guidance HSG 192 for ‘domestic’ third sector activity, and a workshop with People in Aid on risk in overseas emergency and development work.

The saying ‘charity begins at home but ends with the whole world’ can also apply to good health and safety. Similar partnerships in the rail sector, in education and elsewhere represents a crucial way in which IOSH needs to take its arguments for competency to the wider world.

Making change happen

The hardest nuts to crack are always arguments with ‘friends’ — how hard do we press, how much do we risk by doing so?

When I became president I expressed a determination to work for a competency statement from HSE, and nearly two years later we seem about to achieve this. My greatest frustration has been how slowly matters progress.

My riposte to those who argue we should stay the same is how can we improve health and safety performance if we do that? As Forrest Gump said: “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.” That includes thousands of work-related deaths across Europe and millions across the world every year — complacency will cost lives!

Press ahead

So my final statement as someone trusted with the leadership of IOSH is a big thank you to the staff and members, especially those post-holders in branches and groups, who helped IOSH achieve so much in the past four years.

It is also a charge to those who follow: no slacking — challenge, change and development is the lifeblood of a professional body. Growth, greater impact, and the aim of a world of work that is healthy, safe and sustainable are too important to rest on our laurels.

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