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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
February 19, 2008

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Let’s change the world

Health and safety wasn’t IOSH president-elect Nattasha Freeman’s first career choice. But now she’s here, she’s determined to make a difference.

My first career choice was law, but I decided to pursue a career in health and safety to change the world and make a difference. Both choices have things in common — a requirement to keep your finger on the pulse, by keeping an eye on forthcoming legislation and best practice. In turn, you have to turn legislation into practical application.

IOSH gives me the opportunity to spend time with like-minded people. We might not all have a health and safety job title, but we all share the belief that people not only have the right to go home from work safely, but to enjoy a good quality of life when they do.

We are a passionate profession, and it’s only with this passion that you can be all things to all people. In our job you’ll find problem solvers, HR people, fellow employees, managers, experts, architects, investigators, teachers, jugglers, communicators, and sometimes, the person with the crystal ball. But our job description will, most of the time, say simply “health and safety officer” despite all of the skills we have to demonstrate. But it’s this variety that persuaded me to become a health and safety professional.

During my time on the presidential team, there are four themes that I’m going to be exploring. Three of them revolve around communication — internal (communicating with you what IOSH is doing), external (continuing and expanding inter-agency work we need to do) and industry (continuing to work with SMEs and vulnerable workers).

My fourth theme will probably come under a heading like ‘back to work’. I’m very interested in rehabilitated return to work, and also the issue of ageing workers who may be returning to work but in a new job with a different safety culture.

Having agreed to take on the presidential role, I found myself posing for a photoshoot as the fourth member of Team IOSH at the World Conker Championships. We live in a changing world, and although the safety message has always been there, it hasn’t always been taken in. By doing things differently, as IOSH did in sponsoring the Championships, we are demonstrating that undertaking ‘risky’ leisure activities is about calculating risk and making decisions not to do it at first glance — feel the fear, calculate the risk, enjoy the challenge.

And yet health and safety is still being hit in the media for everything that people are stopped from doing. The comments in the media point the finger at health and safety, but how many of those that stop activities are actually health and safety professionals? The answer is, very few.

We need to show that health and safety isn’t the killjoy, and that enjoying a decent quality of life is important — and that means letting people indulge in risky activities, if that is their choice. Health and safety’s role is to help people make informed choices (risk aware, not risk averse) so that, if they want to feel fear, they can, so long as it presents no risk to others and you know about the risks involved.

By stepping on the presidential team, I’ve considered the risks and deemed them acceptable to me. And I’m thoroughly looking forward to the challenges ahead!

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