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August 11, 2010

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Is health and safety the busiest profession?

The role of the health and safety manager is multi-faceted and demanding, with the number of issues practitioners have to deal with growing all the time.

While this will come as no surprise to those currently in the profession and juggling myriad responsibilities, what is interesting are the number and variety of priority issues cited by the respondents to a recent survey.

Aviva Risk Management Solutions (ARMS) asked more than 200 health and safety managers who visited the Safety & Health Expo at the NEC in May the simple question: what is your priority? No options were given and the participants were free to give their own answer. Once the responses had been categorised, more than 30 different “priority” issues emerged, ranging from stress and violence to display screen equipment and lone workers.

The number-one priority, however, was reducing accidents, closely followed by training and improving management systems and policy. Other issues mentioned included behavioural safety, and achieving a recognised safety standard, such as OHSAS 18001 or ISO 14001.

Head of ARMS, Brian Wallace, commented: “The findings reveal that not only do health and safety managers have a lot to deal with but that their priorities differ considerably from one workplace to the next.”

IOSH said the results are not surprising, as helping reduce workplace accidents and ill health, and improving management of health and safety are fundamental to a health and safety practitioner’s role. The Institution carried out its own research into the diversity of roles in the profession as part of a European study in 2005 and found a similar range of responsibilities and tasks. (To download What practitioners do, click here.)

IOSH was pleased to see the focus on training by the respondents to the ARMS survey, emphasising the importance of competence in the profession. It added: “For practitioners, the levels of training and qualification needed will depend on their roles and responsibilities. IOSH has a competence-based membership structure and supports continuing professional development.

“In terms of prioritising training, this is the responsibility of the employer; there is a legal requirement to have access to ‘competent assistance’ to help discharge health and safety responsibilities. Employers must also ensure all employees are competent enough to carry out their roles safely, requiring both general awareness training and specific induction training for the role they perform. This requires assessing training needs and developing and implementing a training plan.

“IOSH training is delivered by our network of over 1400 training organisations and in-house teams across the UK and overseas, and we issue around 120,000 certificates a year.”

The ARMS survey also asked health and safety managers to identify which issues they might seek help on from consultants. Again, training and qualifications were cited by most respondents (41 per cent), followed by written guidance (15 per cent), fire safety (12 per cent), and driver safety (9 per cent).

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