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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
April 28, 2008

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Keep up the good work

The work of the Institution was given cross-party backing at the IOSH 08 Conference — although calls for a regulated profession may have to wait a while longer to be answered.

Health and safety minister, Lord McKenzie of Luton, shadow minister for work and pensions, Andrew Selous, and Liberal Democrat shadow minister for work and pensions, Paul Rowen, all took the stage in Telford to praise the profession for its efforts to keep people safe — and to encourage you all to keep up the good work!

Lord McKenzie commented: “As an organisation, your work is greatly valued and recognised by both HSE and DWP. I have seen and heard at first hand some of the excellent work you are carrying out on occupational health, sensible risk, and the Workplace Hazard Awareness Course for young people.

“I have been thinking about your ‘Get the Best’ campaign as I am particularly keen to see companies manage risks appropriately, and where and how they can obtain the competent help they need.”

However, Lord McKenzie said he doubted it is just ‘unqualified’ people who are bringing health and safety into disrepute: “Whether you are a health and safety practitioner, an HSE or local authority inspector, or a manager with responsibility for health and safety, there is a need to take a long hard look at the advice you give. Does it over-complicate health and safety? Is it too legalistic or disproportionate to the circumstances you are dealing with?

“I do not see, at this stage, a totally regulated profession, where only those with certain qualifications can practise, or offer advice. This is no different to accountancy where, although only those with certain qualifications can undertake audit, insolvency and investment advice, anyone can call themselves an accountant.”

However, Lord McKenzie did say he wants to find ways to raise the profile of professional health and safety, and that there is a need for the health and safety community to continue to fight stories undermining and trivialising health and safety.

Stamp out the sneering

The trivialising of health and safety was a theme Andrew Selous very much took on, describing the media portrayals of health and safety as “sneering”. He said: “On most occasions, when I speak about health and safety, I find it necessary to set the record straight. These false allegations are serious, as they undermine the legitimate, proper and necessary work that you in this hall are involved in.”

Mr Selous added that he supported the issues IOSH is lobbying on: “I know that you are concerned about rogue health and safety practitioners and agree that a way should be found to disqualify the cowboy element from your profession.

“The area you are working in is vitally important for the future health, well-being and prosperity of our country. Safe businesses, where the well-being of staff is nurtured, are more profitable businesses. That is why your work is so significant.”

Paul Rowen heaped praise on IOSH for its work on the Workplace Hazard Awareness Course (WHAC): “As a former teacher I have been impressed by IOSH’s emphasis on prevention and education. IOSH is right that we should be particularly careful about the health and safety of young workers. I have been impressed by the WHAC for year 10 students. Indeed, with the raising of the school leaving age to 18 it is important that this course is made mandatory.

“I support the IOSH position on properly regulated health and safety advisors and I am interested in the position of IOSH president Ray Hurst, who has argued for a unified health and safety inspection agency, uniting HSE and local authority health and safety inspectors. We certainly need a national strategy with consistent standards.”

IOSH will continue over the next 12 months to inform political figures on the views of the health and safety profession.

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