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October 4, 2016

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Martin Temple: “HSE is driven by an innate ambition to improve”

Martin-Temple-EEFMartin Temple, the new chair of the Health and Safety Executive, speaks to SHP ahead of his talk at the 25th annual Capita Safety Lecture about his plans and visions in his new role and discusses how the role of a health and safety practitioner has changed over the last 25 years.

Congratulations on your new role as Chair of HSE – with your vast range of experience in chairing various organisations, councils and plcs, what are your plans and visions in your new role?

To ensure that we deliver on our mission and strategy with the assistance of a well-run board operating under good governance and assisted by an enthusiastic and well-informed executive team.

We must facilitate the development of a sustainable organisation which has brilliant communication, access to the best information and well trained and motivated staff.

This year will be Capita Safety’s 25th anniversary lecture. Past keynote speeches have ranged from building ties with Europe, risk profiling, and combining health, safety and environment.

A lot of progress has been made in the profession since the lecture began in 1992, what are you planning on covering in your speech and what kind of impact do you hope it will have?

I intend to highlight our strategy “Help GB Work Well” and in particular my priorities as the new Chair. I will also take time to explain why we are giving particular emphasis on health.

I hope the approach will first of all inform people about our priorities and why they are priorities. Hopefully those who listen will identify ways in which they can drive their own actions and agendas in a similar direction, because success will only come for Britain if we all make a contribution.

How do you think the roles and responsibilities of a health and safety professional has changed in the last 25 years – if at all?

The ‘74 act remains as valid today as it did the day it was written, so in many ways our fundamental roles and responsibilities have changed very little. I have been a duty holder for many years and what has changed beyond recognition is the context of work.

Our expectations are higher in terms of avoiding exposure to harmful environments and protecting both our safety and health. Gone are the days when people accepted unsafe conditions that damaged their health as inevitable or in return for monetary reward.

Technology has added complexity and speed to duty holders’ activities, but the basic failures in managing health and safety are stubbornly familiar. Conversely, we can monitor much more to control risks and reduce people’s exposure through good design.

The speed of change and the expected speed of communication may affect the role of health and safety professionals, but good health and safety will always be good business. Finally, bigger roles and responsibilities means that we are all time poor, making quality engagement on health and safety even more important.

In the past you chaired a programme around UK Government supporting small businesses – health and safety is often a difficult topic to engage SMEs with, how can we better relate to and engage with this key demographic?

Small businesses have always been a difficult to reach community; they are dominated by the challenges from all angles which threaten the continued success of the business. We are however more fortunate today than in the past.

The growth of social media and the new forms of communication via public channels and the speed and quality of the new tools means that greater reach and engagement is possible with relatively low cost methods.

Interaction is easier and new techniques using behavioural science can prompt people to engage and respond. It will still be a challenge but the opportunities are there.

In 2014, you led an independent triennial review of the HSE – the review broadly found the HSE fit for purpose, but recommended several areas for improvement, innovation and change, particularly in commercialisation. Is this an area that you intend to focus on in your new role as chair?

HSE is driven by an innate ambition to improve, to be an enabling regulator and to work with others to help them improve their health and safety performance. We put a high value on impartiality, for new, common sense and clarity in the way we conduct ourselves.

So it was no surprise to find that HSE had studied my report in absolute detail and embraced my recommendations in a very positive way, I will not need to put special focus on these areas.

The HSE’s business plan for 2016/17 shows a forecast of spending cuts within the HSE. How will the HSE remain a positive and visible force in times of austerity?

It is true that like many other public bodies, HSE will receive reduced taxpayer funding over the period to 2019/20. As informed by my earlier comments there are many new ways, particularly around information and communication, where we can carry out our duties more efficiently and effectively.

While recognising the challenge, HSE will seek to maintain current levels of its core regulatory activities including permissioning, workplace inspections, investigation and enforcement.

We plan to do this through achieving growth in commercial income and delivery of planned efficiency savings – including continued commercial contract management, process simplification, digitally enabling services and further rationalisation of our estate footprint.

Martin Temple OBE, will be speaking at the 25th annual Capita Safety Lecture on 11 October at the Royal College of Surgeons, London. He will be joining Leon Smith OBE, captain of the GB Davis Cup Team and the compère for the evening will be Gerard Forlin QC. There are limited space available for this free lecture, find more information on the Capita Safety website.

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Peter Gotch
Peter Gotch
7 years ago

If HSE redeployed HQ staff from repeated consultations about amending/revoking legislation to front line inspection, it would be more likely to accelerate improved management of health and safety, whilst at the same time, wasting less consultees’ resources, which are better directed at managing risks.