Frank Post, executive director at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health explains how the organisation is putting health back into health and safety, and how the organisation is tying in to the HSE’s strategic direction on ‘Helping Great Britain Work Well’.
In 2014/15, local authority sanctioned health and safety inspectors issued 2,984 Notices under the Health and Safety at Work Act; a 19% drop from the previous year and a 115% decrease compared to figures posted in 2004/05.
While it is a positive thing that the incidence of enforcement activity is going down, it doesn’t mean we should become complacent and this should apply not only to local authority officers but also to members of staff who are responsible for upholding and improving health and safety standards in the workplace.
Health and safety is a core component of our work here at the CIEH and we’re at the forefront of promoting and upholding robust health and safety standards.
Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) make up the vast majority of our members and they range from local authority officers to those in the private sector working in safety advisory roles for instance. Along with HSE inspectors, our members work hard to ensure that both members of the public and staff are kept safe and healthy whilst at work.
Environmental health professionals working for local authorities support a range of businesses, such as food shops, offices and warehouses, to develop and implement effective health and safety oversight of their operations and to ensure that good standards are upheld.
And where there are significant risks, our members have the power to take action to correct behaviour, preserve health and well-being, as well as help prevent serious injuries.
Whatever the type of intervention, EHPs have long been conscious of the ‘health’ element of health and safety principles. For this very reason, we are strongly in favour of HSE’s new strategy ‘Helping Great Britain Work Well’.
Traditionally, health and safety interventions have tended to focus on ‘safety’ whereas the health component has proved to be the poor relation in some cases.
These interventions have not necessarily held ‘health’ in high regard but HSE’s new strategic direction has taken the practice of health and safety to a higher level.
As a result of their education, training and focus on those broad environmental stressors that impact upon health, local authority based health and safety enforcement officers are in an excellent position to work in partnership with their HSE colleagues to drive forward the new strategy.
But health and safety is not simply about regulators doing their job. Members of staff have a responsibility to uphold the law and that’s where robust and comprehensive training is essential.
The CIEH is a brand leader in delivering OFQUAL regulated training for small and medium sized businesses as well as lower-risk organisations. We work with more than 2,200 centres and a little over 3,500 trainers, who deliver our health and safety qualifications, in a wide range of topics from manual handling and COSHH, to risk assessment and health and safety in the workplace.
Over the past few years, we have seen significant changes in how health and safety is delivered by businesses and other organisations.
Within many larger organisations, health and safety tends to be ensured through operating systems and processes. But whilst an organisation can employ a good system and procedures to manage and reduce the level of risk, you’ve got to ensure the competency of individuals whether they are directly responsible for health and safety or need to be aware for certain elements of it for their job.
Good training therefore is essential to ensure that robust health and safety practices are upheld at all points.
Training, historically in the UK, has been based on the principals involved in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA). But with today’s globalised world, there is a growing trend that training also has to take into account international practices and standards.
This is not simply considering standards from the ISO but also guidance from the International Labour Organisation. In addition health and safety standards in European countries tend to comply with directives from the EU.
And one further trend we have noticed is that training outputs aren’t necessarily tested to see if they have been retained by candidates. While organisations can save time and money by truncating the time for training, this has the potential to dilute standards and competencies, none more so in health and safety provision.
Therefore the dilemma to businesses and organisations is how to balance cost and time whilst ensuring robust and effective training for their workforce.
Throughout 2016, the CIEH will continue to work with the HSE around their new strategy, provide guidance to our members on new health and safety developments, as well as support businesses in improving the competencies and skills of their workforces.