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October 15, 2009

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Immediate past-president-Masters of the unsaid words

Immediate past-president, Ray Hurst, reflects on his time on the presidential team, and urges the profession to continue to defend its reputation.

So, that’s almost it. We’ve reached October and in a little over a month’s time I’ll have fallen off the presidential team perch. I think we’ve come a long way since I first stood for election to the presidential team, but while we’ve made progress, there’s still some way to go.

I never thought I’d see the day where commentators would take the side of you and me. But that happened in the wake of Channel 4’s ‘The Fun Police’. Even so, we still have hanging baskets being banned and a leading Scottish business figure blaming health and safety for science lessons becoming ‘boring’.

The war is not won although we have scored some wins in a few battles, and it may be that we’ve got to adopt new methods to get our messages across in the future. The media rebuttals have had a positive impact and views are changing, albeit slowly, but to quote Sir Winston Churchill (which I do often): “This may not be the end, it may not be the beginning of the end, but it may just be the end of the beginning.”

We have to look to the good that all of us do, and we have to be prepared to share that with the world. That’s something the Army are very good at doing. Admittedly, comparing the acts of heroism committed by members of the Armed Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq is vastly different from our work. However, we have to aspire to be seen as heroes, rather than as faceless bureaucrats. That means telling the world about the good we do by putting our heads above the parapet.

In my experience, we’re very good at telling each other the good work we do, but we’re less good at telling ‘outsiders’ to the profession. Too often, members with the most amazing stories are either too afraid or don’t know how to go public, or just don’t realise that what they are doing is brilliant and worthy of merit.

As my parting shot, I want to change that. I want all of you to think about what you do, and to let people know about the brilliant things you do. Talk to a member of the IOSH media team —
e-mail [email protected] or [email protected] if you think you’ve got a story worth telling. To quote Sir Winston again: “Give us the tools and we will finish the job.”

We’ve made great progress on the political scene in the UK and Ireland, and we’re now very highly thought of by many politicians from across the party divide and government departments who see us as a key source of expertise, and a powerful partner.

The growth in media and political presence are both things I could only have imagined when I first joined IOSH in 1978. Similarly, 35,000+ members and chartered status were mere pipedreams. It’s through all of our efforts that we’ve got to where we have — let’s not let it go to waste by taking our foot off the accelerator.

Over the 28 years I’ve been involved with branch, group and committee work, I have found that IOSH members have so much that binds them together. We are all working towards our joint passion — preventing workplace ill health and injury that devastates people’s lives and those of their families.

During my presidential term, I’ve spoken on many occasions about my father losing both of his legs because of an accident at work and the devastating effect it had on my family, and me. It’s preventing situations like that which continues to drive me on.

My three years on the presidential team have been a whirlwind. But would I have missed it? Definitely not — it’s been an extremely enjoyable and valuable learning experience, particularly because I have had the opportunity to meet and talk with so many of you.

All that’s left for me to do is to thank all of you for giving me the rare privilege of serving you for three years and to all the IOSH staff for their understanding, kindness and help. All of us working together is what helps to make our professional body such a great one.

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