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May 6, 2010

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Accreditation of consultants wins cross-party backing

As the nation heads to the polls, the three main parties have indicated that they are broadly in favour of some form of accreditation of health and safety consultants.

The show of political support in this area emerged out of an IOSH survey last month, which asked the parties five key questions relating to health and safety.

Currently, anyone can operate as a health and safety ‘advisor’, even if they have no relevant qualifications or experience, or have been convicted of a health and safety offence. When asked their views on addressing this issue by setting up a register of accredited health and safety consultants, Labour and the Lib Dems agreed that steps needed to be taken.

Labour said in its response: “Building competence through an organisation will help generate an understanding of what information, skills and training are necessary to ensure safe and healthy working practices. This will help people identify when they need to seek advice.”

Likewise, backing proposals for a register, the Lib Dems said: “There is a need to streamline and make transparent the qualifications of people working in this area.”

The Conservatives described such a register as “an important contribution to the debate on the future of health and safety” but were reluctant to comment further until after the publication of Lord Young’s review of health and safety.

Commenting on the survey results, IOSH policy and technical director Richard Jones said: “Accreditation was recommended by a Work and Pensions Select Committee in 2008 and IOSH is currently working alongside the HSE and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) on a feasibility study to introduce a programme of accreditation.

“Poor advice could be damaging: to workers, whose lives and long-term health can be put at risk; to businesses, through wasted time and money; and to national prosperity and productivity, through increasing demands on health and social services.”

A broad consensus was also reached on the issue of health and safety education. Asked if they thought health and safety should be embedded in the education and training system, Labour said: “We certainly support the focus on educating young people before they enter the workforce so that they become risk aware, and we acknowledge the good work that IOSH has done in developing education courses aimed at 14-year-olds and above.”

“Given the importance we place on health and safety leadership from the top of organisations, we should press for coverage on health and safety issues in the curricula of MBAs and similar qualifications.”

According to the Conservatives, “Health and safety is an important element of employment training – nobody should feel that they have been placed in employment without proper training.”

And the Lib Dems remarked: “Health and safety education is, and should be, part of our education system. We believe in a risk-based approach to health and safety. Such an approach can only work if everyone – employer and employee – is aware of their responsibilities for health and safety.”

Meanwhile, in an election poll carried out by Safety & Health Expo, which takes place at the NEC in Birmingham next week, Labour is the party most respondents want to see in power, winning 39 per cent of the vote. The Conservative party came in a close second (32 per cent), while interestingly, a hung parliament (16 per cent) appears more favourable to the health and safety industry than a Liberal Democrat government (13 per cent).

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