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Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, who has also contributed to numerous national business titles including Utility Week, the Municipal Journal, Environment Journal and consumer titles such as Classic Rock.

June 18, 2019

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Safety & Health Expo

‘We have reached a bit of a plateau in our health and safety performance,’ says HSE

A senior figure from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has urged organisations to “evidence-based decisions” and avoid a “copy and paste approach”.

Speaking today (18 June) at Safety & Health Expo 2019 event in London, the HSE’s Head of Human Factors and Organisational Performance, Ed Corbett said he has seen a lot of health and safety interventions, but whether they have been tied to a strong evidence-base is “debateable”.

“We need to focus on evidence-based decisions and avoid that copy and paste approach, and make sure we are finding interventions that will make a difference,” he told delegates.

Mr Corbett added that while there have been strong improvements, it does “feel like we have reached a bit of a plateau in our health and safety performance” in the UK.

“If you look at the data over the last four or five years, it is fairly static,” he said.

“As leaders in organisations, we have to understand what we are doing well at the moment, and what is it that we need to do differently.”

Mr Corbett added it is important that organisations ask “intelligent questions” when responding to safety incidents.

“Rather than jumping into finding a solution, we really need to thoroughly understand what has gone wrong.

“We see a lot of tertiary and secondary interventions around mental health and not much focus on reducing the real cause of those issues. We see a lot of yoga classes, cycling to work scheme, but some organisations are not really addressing the problem in the first place.”

He added that some interventions “won’t compensate for the gaps in the workplace” and questioned whether staff in some organisations feel comfortable about talking about what went wrong?

“If we don’t hear about what is going wrong in an accurate way, it means that we are not learning and finding better interventions,” said Mr Corbett.

Another issue, he added was a reluctance among some organisations to share information because of a fear of reputational damage or litigation.

He added that the HSE sees itself as a “collaborator with industry”, aiming to “build better understanding of the problems that faced by industry and supporting the solutions that are being applied as well”.

“By working together and pooling resources from different sectors, industries and organisations, as well as our own,” he said the HSE can make “sure the solutions that we apply have an evidence base”.

“We are not just doing it because other organisations are doing it, we are doing it because we know it’s the right thing to do,” he told the event.

Mr Corbett also talked about some of the research areas the HSE will be looking at over the next six months, including looking at fatigue and shift patterns.

“We know fatigue in the workplace can be a serious problem and can lead to major instances, so that’s an area we are going to look at more,” he promised.

The HSE is also going to be examining the introduction of more automation and artificial intelligence and how that will impact the workplace. Plus, he added the HSE will also be looking at work-related stress and what an organisation can gain from investing in health and stress in the workplace.

Mr Corbett also said the watchdog will be looking at the issue of leadership and how can health and safety influence senior managers.

“Looking at MBMA programmes, it’s quite clear that health and safety does not take a front row seat in many of those programmes. Should we be targeting MBMA programmes?” he asked the audience.

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