Health and safety experts offer 2017 predictions
Last year, SHP asked professionals from a varied range of backgrounds and sectors to share their thoughts and opinions on what 2016 would bring for the health and safety profession.
After a year that has brought us, among other things: Trump, Brexit, the Sentencing Guidelines and the Rio Olympics, Roz Sanderson asked a range of people for their thoughts on what 2016 had brought and asked them to offer their predictions for 2017.
HSE chairs (past and present), legal experts, construction leaders and academics present their thoughts for consideration.
HSE Chairs: past and present
Martin Temple, chair of Health and Safety Executive
“In 2017, HSE will encourage more of Britain’s workforce to sign up to the long term benefits offered by the Help GB work well strategy commitment to deliver safer and healthier workplaces. The importance of tackling ill heath in the workplace cannot be overstated and will form a cornerstone of the work HSE and industry focuses on in the coming years, not just 2017.
“A lot of good work has already been done on health, but it needs to have the same priority as safety. For example in the construction industry, the number of workers suffering work-related ill-health each year is of a similar order to the number of workers in construction injured in workplace accidents.
“With the launch of a new Health and Work strategy, HSE will demonstrate the Government’s commitment to tackling ill-health in the workplace. The preventative work of HSE and industry bodies will be a key component of this overall approach.
“HSE is currently building a strong platform for change with many organisations, sharing a common aim of Helping Great Britain Work Well while also driving home the message and convincing business that health and safety is an enabler, not a burden.
“HSE will also be looking to think beyond the improvements made to simplify its legislation and guidance during the last Parliament. We need to find and tackle unnecessary burdens on business that others create. The popular Mythbusters campaign will remain an important foundation for this, and I’m pleased to become the Chair of the Challenge Panel.
“We will be looking at blue tape and how it can be tackled – requirements that may have good intentions, but that can be prescriptive or go further than legislation and guidance. It’s something I feel strongly that we have to attempt to tackle, however challenging it may be.
“We want all small businesses to know how to manage health and safety risk effectively and proportionately – allowing them to be more productive and safer.”
Judith Hackitt – chemical engineer, chair of EEF, and past chair of HSE
“In 2017 UK manufacturing will face continuing challenges and uncertainty as Brexit progresses.
“We must not and will not take our eye off the ball on health and safety.
“More than ever, pursuing improvement must be an integral part of increasing productivity and building an engaged and committed workforce.”
Brexit, Trump and EU regulation
Lawrence Waterman – director of Health and Safety, Battersea Power Station development, Park Health and Safety
“Reaching small businesses and addressing health and wellbeing remain key themes for everyone but the context for our efforts has been rapidly changing and will impact on how we work in 2017.
“The world looks different with the rise of right-wing populism in eastern Europe, in France the candidacy of Marine Le Pen whose National Front used to be universally described as fascist, the UK Brexit vote that commentators agree was underpinned by a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment and of course the inexorable rise of the reality TV star to the Presidency of the United States despite the criticisms of the misogyny and racism within Trump’s campaign.
“This has a lot to do with health and safety. Although the UK Government has given an assurance that EU health and safety Directives and Regulations will be translated into UK law and retained, former Minister Shapps proposed a five year life for such a transfer.
“In an age of austerity, cuts and the continued discussion about ‘burdens on business’ it would be wise to maintain a healthy distrust of anyone offering to be ‘our friends’, as always it is their actions that will count. In these troubled times, we need to maintain a degree of vigilance over hard-won workplace standards.”
Louise Ward, policy and standards director of the British Safety Council
“2016 has been a year of change and transition. The constantly advancing technology is blurring the boundaries between life and work, offering new opportunities for flexibility, but also impacting on time for rest and relaxation. The gig economy is changing employment relationships, with increasing numbers of people in transitory and short term roles which allow flexibility but affect personal resilience and financial security.
“The political environment is changing too, with Brexit transforming the status quo both in the UK and EU, and the outcome of American election likely to affect political regimes all over the world.
“What will this mean for health and safety? People are at the very core of every successful business. The political changes are likely to affect the availability of skilled labour from outside the UK, so businesses will need an increased focus on supporting and developing their workforce.
“The population is ageing and pension changes mean that people are retiring later, so management of health issues will become of key importance. There is also a need to support and develop young people as they enter the workforce. Employers should start to embed a positive and effective approach to health and safety early in their working lives.
“There is an increasing focus on the health and wellbeing of people at work. This has the potential to deliver significant benefits both for individuals and organisations keen to protect their most important asset. However, this is an emerging issue, and there is much to do to develop a bank of guidance and good practice material to inform and support this work.”
Dr Shaun Lundy, University of Greenwich
“Last year I mentioned the importance of research informed practice and the dangers of allowing myths to gain too much prominence in our profession.
“In the past 12 months the world has changed remarkably with Brexit and more recently Trump. The Oxford English dictionary’s word of the year is post-truth which is defined as circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.
“Post-truth has been wildly associated with certain political messages during the EU referendum and more recently with the Trump presidential campaign. During the referendum Michael Gove MP said that British people have had enough of experts and Donald Trump frequently stated untruths as facts with no apparent repercussions.
“So what does this mean for the future health and safety where expert opinion and evidence based practice may be brought into question by populism and myths?
“The reality is that when it comes to comes to the serious business of protecting health and ensuring safety at work the importance of research and education has never been more important.
“I’m seeing more health and safety professionals studying at university than ever before and the increasing inclusion of leadership and communications soft skills in degree and diploma programmes is extremely important for our future.
“The continuation of myths and emerging post-truth society still pose a threat to our profession. However, questioning our existing ways of practice is necessary and change often essential, as long as it’s based on evidence and rational thinking, not on emotion or populism.
“Through effective education and CPD we will continue to ensure that health and safety professionals remain fit for these challenges ahead.”
Sentencing guidelines, fines and regulation
David Shorrock, managing director – DS Risk Management Ltd, ex-HSE principal inspector
“The year ahead will further reinforce how much getting health and safety wrong can cost an organisation. The astronomical levels of fines under the new sentencing guidelines will continue and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that 2017 will see the first £10 million fine.
“As a result of this there is an increasing number of organisations looking for independent assurance to analyse whether they are managing health and safety to a level that is commensurate to the size and complexity of their organisation.
“It is a common problem that internal audit and assurance cannot always deliver the impartial, independent checks and balances that external assurance does. There is an increasing appetite for this type of external review to fill the void left by a lack of proactive inspection by regulators, particularly HSE, in the majority of employment sectors and this demand will continue to increase.
“Health issues will continue to dominate the regulatory landscape however safety maturity and human factors will creep up the agenda. Larger organisations are currently most keen to understand why things can still go wrong despite having seemingly extensive and robust health and safety management systems. Many other smaller operations could also benefit from the same analysis.”
Michael Appleby, partner at Fisher Scoggins Waters LLP
“As predicted the new sentencing guidelines that took effect last February have had a dramatic impact upon sentencing for health and safety offences. Multi-million pound fines have been imposed upon companies for non-fatal as well as fatal incidents and more individuals have received immediate or suspended custodial sentences.
“2016 saw the introduction of ‘Better Case Management’ in the Crown Courts which aims to reduce the number of hearings required. Consequently defendants are expected to identify the issues they dispute early on. Next year new guidelines will mean the full third discount in sentence is only available if a guilty plea is entered at the first appearance in the magistrates’ court.
“These changes taken as a whole mean that dutyholders in the wake of an incident can no longer take a ‘wait and see’ approach. They need to be proactive in their investigation and preparation so that if a prosecution ensues they are ready to respond.
“In 2017 Fee for Intervention will be considered by the High Court. Permission has been granted for a judicial review of the scheme’s dispute process. I represent the Claimant.
“Brexit will continue to dominate the political agenda but little change to health and safety is likely any time soon as it will be of low priority when Article 50 is triggered.”
Olivier Touchais, Global General Manager General Safety, Honeywell Industrial Safety
“We are seeing an accelerating trend towards connected safety solutions. It is forecast that there will be 50 billion connected products by 2020 and personal protective equipment will be a key part of this growth.
“The growth in connectivity means health and safety managers can potentially access vast streams of data to help ensure that workers have the correct safety gear and training to operate safely. Connected safety will improve awareness of long-term risk exposures such as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which will be a key focus.
“The new European PPE Regulation, which moves hearing protection from category 2 to category 3 (the highest risk category), is an important step in revaluating the importance of hearing protection. Hearing loss is less visible than other injuries and some workers already suffer from hearing loss caused by recreational exposures.
“Businesses will need to assess workers’ hearing at the outset. They will also need to raise awareness of hearing conservation among workers; minimise exposure time and noise levels; and identify the most effective product to maintain hearing conservation.
“Careful management of the PPE Regulation’s one-year transition period will also be critical. During this time, products that meet both the current EU Directive and the forthcoming regulation will exist on the market, which may cause confusion for end users. Manufacturers need to educate customers so that they understand the transition process and changes in regulatory requirements.”
Soft skills and training
Teresa Budworth, CEO, NEBOSH
“2017 will see a continuation of the global development of the health and safety profession. The Twenty-first World Congress on Safety and Health at work will take place in Singapore – a great forum for sharing best practice. NEBOSH will attending along with the 14 member organisations from 11 countries making up INSHPO – the International Network of Safety & Health Practitioner Organisations.
“We have been working alongside the other member organisations on the OHS Professional Capability Framework, which defines the role of the OHS professional as well as the requisite knowledge and skills. Our contribution included sharing our extensive international research on the educational needs of the safety and health professional conducted during the redevelopment of our Diploma.
“During the World Congress I will be signing an international accord on recognition of the INSHPO Framework.
“Due to the ongoing depressed price of oil, international conflict and political uncertainty, many major international construction and civil engineering projects are on hold. I anticipate that as the price of oil rises, projects will restart.
“Unfortunately, during an economic upswing, serious and fatal accidents tend to increase, often due to the relative inexperience of workers. This will present a challenge to the safety and health practitioner working in these fields, and will increase demand for our professional skills.”
Shirley Parsons, CEO, Shirley Parsons Associates Ltd
“As 2017 approaches everyone will be speculating as to what the world changes will be following Brexit and Trump’s election. Deregulation, changes to legislation, increased security and a reduction in free movement may all play a part in 2017.
“In terms of health and safety the new IOSH Competency Framework will make it easier for everyone to keep up their CPD, and this in turn will help if you are looking for promotion, a career change or a new job.
“There is a definite move towards the importance of softer skills and a greater emphasis on the importance of leadership in influencing change. Several traditional degree and diploma courses have sharpened their focus to include emphasis on the softer skills and competencies.
“A number of our clients recruit candidates with the right positive attitude rather than a string of academic qualifications. I believe that this will increase in 2017.
“So whether you are new to health and safety or an old hand, it’s important to think outside the box and gain as many life skills and experiences as possible. Don’t be shy in emphasising your skills in these areas – they will stand you in good stead in your career.”
Technology and the health and safety community
Karen McDonnell, OHS policy advisor RoSPA, Immediate Past President IOSH
“During RoSPA’s centenary year, we will be reflecting on the role that our pioneering charity has played as a proactive partner, delivering worldwide improvements in health and safety performance both within and beyond the workplace.
“We hope to gain greater recognition of the huge burden that accidental injuries place on hospital A&E departments. We will therefore continue to work with the Royal College of Emergency Medicine in our joint ‘AlliancE’, to help reduce pressure on A&E through a greater focus on accident prevention.
“We need the health and safety community to recognise that accidents have a major impact on productivity. Accidents kill more children, young people and young parents than anything else. They are the biggest cause of death up to age 39, and indeed the biggest cause of preventable death up to the age of 72.
“Instead of a debilitating culture of risk aversion, we will be promoting an enabling culture of risk awareness/risk management to prevent accidents and the life-changing injuries that they cause.
“We will be striving to improve global connections between organisations and individuals who recognise that accidents – and that includes work-related illness – don’t have to happen.”
Terry Woolmer, head of health and safety policy, EEF
“This time last year, I speculated whether manufacturers would become more risk adverse as a consequence of the revised Sentencing Council guidelines for health and safety offences.
“There is no doubt that the average level of fines has increased and that company directors have become more aware of the potential for higher fines. It is too early to suggest however that they have changed behaviour, but there are early indications that companies are more likely to defend high profile cases.
“2017 will continue to bring questions around Brexit and what it means for the OSH arena.
“Most UK health and safety law derived from EU Directives has been in place for many years and are embedded in company investment decisions, company policies, management systems, safe systems of work and working practices.
“There will be in due course opportunities to repeal certain areas of regulation without reducing levels of employee protection, for instance, artificial optical radiation. The export of goods from the UK are subject to rules around product directives and product standards, many of which will have been established jointly by the EU and by CEN & CENELEC, though national standards making bodies like BSI.
“Post-Brexit companies who wish to continue trading in the EU (using CE marking) will want to continue meeting EU product safety directives and the product standards which are mutually recognised across Europe.
“What new and emerging technology will have most impact in 2017? Well in reality some of it has been with us for some time, i.e.collaborative robots.
“Man-machine interaction is nothing new, however it is now becoming commonplace and complex as robots are less and less operating in segregated areas but are working in tandem with humans.
“What will this mean in terms of safeguarding standards? The question yet to be fully addressed is: how to make the PUWER ‘hierarchy’ of machinery guarding compatible with the use of collaborative robots?”
Emma Head, Corporate Health and Safety Director, HS2
“2017 will be a busy year for the construction industry, with a number of major infrastructure projects on the horizon. To meet the skills demand, we will need to continue our focus on supporting and developing small and medium sized organisations so they can deliver improved health and safety performance.
“We also have a duty to develop the next generation of skilled professionals, in all areas of construction and in our case, be ready for future railway operations. Our focus on apprentices, and through the High Speed Rail College will be to make sure that good health and safety behaviours and leadership skills are baked into the curriculum from the very start.
“Technology developments, such as BIM offer an exciting opportunity to raise the profile of health and safety risks, encourage earlier identification and provide the opportunity to engineer out at source. This will be a game changer for health by design.”
Strategies and challenges
Rob Cooling, director of health and safety, Parsons Brinckerhoff and Trustee of IOSH
“2017 will be an exciting year for the OSH discipline and profession.
“The launch of the new IOSH strategy will strengthen the global impact of the profession and the introduction of ISO 45001 will bring about a step-change in OSH practice.
“However, against a continuing backdrop of global economic uncertainty, OSH practitioners will need to be strategic, cross-functional and distinctive in their approach in order to influence positive and meaningful change.”
Paul Griffin, Head of Safety and Security for McArthurGlen Group
“Reviewing my comments about the aviation industry from last year, overall I feel these reflected where the key challenges would exist. Addressing these was certainly the focus of the IOSH Aviation and Aerospace Committee, and a number of initiatives are now underway, looking at improving cooperation between contractors, which I feel remains the highest priority.
“During the year I actually made a switch to the Retail Industry, to take on a new challenge managing safety strategy for an operator of 22 Designer Outlet Centres across Europe. In many ways the challenges between the two industries are very similar, with multiple companies working together at sites which are decentralised, to deliver a positive customer experience for large volumes of people to enjoy.
“Specifically regarding shopping centres, achieving robust and workable procedures for safety between operators and tenants presents a significant challenge. With over 300 shops operating at some of the largest centres, it is vital that tenants are provided with clear guidelines, to clarify site rules and procedures to follow.
“As part of these guidelines, it is important that requirements for safety oversight are governed by risk, otherwise there is potential for tenants to bypass procedures, in order to make quick changes.
“In addition to producing the guidelines, implementing good levels and varied types of communication between operators and tenants is fundamental to enhancing their relationship to levels which would demonstrate a positive safety culture.”
Alan Plom, IOSH Rural Industries Group Vice Chair and Board member of the Farm Safety Partnership (England)
I predict the “same old, same old” for farming, I’m afraid! Although deaths in GB agriculture fell to 27 in 2015-16 (well below the 37 average over the previous five years), it still has one of the worst fatal incident rates (17 times the ‘all-industry’ average) and I fear this will be a ‘blip’.
“As I said a year ago, changing the culture will be a long process and there is no single ‘magic bullet’. However, all Government agencies and leading organisations in UK and Ireland are now working closer together to share research, information, guidance and on joint publicity initiatives, such as Farm Safety Week.
“The Safety Partnership is still focusing on deaths and injuries and hasn’t started to tackle ill health in a concerted way, so we are well behind other sectors. However, by ‘Working Well Together’ we will make a difference… eventually!
“It remains difficult to measure impact though, due to low numbers and gross under-reporting, so our challenge is to find other ways to assess if our messages are getting through and, most importantly, actually changing the behaviour of those working ‘out in the field’ – literally!”
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