IOSH 10 – Health and safety in “crisis” says Lord Young
Health and safety is in danger of “being laughed out of court”, Lord David Young warned today as he addressed delegates at the IOSH Conference in Glasgow.
Lord Young, who is currently carrying out a review of the state of health and safety for the Conservatives, told the conference that, in the eyes of the general public, health and safety is regarded, “at best, as an object of ridicule and, at worst, a bureaucratic nightmare”.
Citing a rash of ‘elf and safety’ stories from the national media as evidence of the perilous condition in which the profession is apparently regarded, Lord Young called on IOSH to look at ways to raise standards among consultants.
He said: “It took me five long years to qualify as a solicitor before I could practice and it takes doctors even longer. Yet, I can set up as a health and safety consultant tomorrow with no qualifications in the field.”
He went on: “I know that IOSH is fully aware of this and that you recommend that consultants gain the Chartered member qualification before starting out – but you don’t insist on it. I am also aware that you recommend that your members follow a 19-point code of conduct – but, again, you don’t insist on it.”
The recommendations of poorly-qualified consultants, said Lord Young, are being enforced through fear of insurance claims, which, more than anything else, is giving health and safety a bad name.
He concluded: “It is up to IOSH to look to the standards of its members, not just those who practice as consultants but also your members in industry and commerce. Above all, we must bring home that health and safety is not about the elimination of all risk but about the application of common sense.”
In a press statement issued after the speech, IOSH insisted that disciplinary procedures are brought against any members that break the code. It is also a requirement for any member listed on its Consultants Register to be Chartered and hold suitable indemnity insurance.
Asked by conference chair, Gavin Esler, if he meant that IOSH should have some regulatory powers to enforce standards in health and safety, Lord Young suggested that the Institution should lobby for them.
IOSH chief executive Rob Strange responded: “He confused the position of IOSH, as a Chartered professional body and charity having no statutory powers, with the law which, as it stands, makes no requirement on health and safety practitioners to be qualified.
“The law states that those who assist in managing health and safety risks need to be competent, yet it doesn’t set out what ‘competence’ actually means and how it can be achieved.”
He added: “IOSH has, for five years now, been at the forefront of calling for accreditation of health and safety consultants, winning political backing, and has led sustained calls for clarity over what qualifies as ‘competent’ health and safety advice.”
Delegates also questioned Lord Young about the Conservatives’ policy on health and safety in respect of the Police and emergency services. The Tories have already stated that, should they be elected, they would amend the HSWA in this regard so that the duty of the Police to the public takes precedence over any health and safety concerns. Lord Young added that “this should apply to all the uniformed services”.