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SPEECH BY HSE CHAIR

Key points from recent HSE Chair address to H&S Expo 2009

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Chair, Judith Hackitt, addressed Safety and Health Expo 2009 at the NEC on 12th May 2009.

Some key points from her speech are below, in advance of the launch of the new HSE Strategy on 3 June 2009.

  • Risk: everyone has the right to work where H&S risks are properly controlled. This is not the same as working where all risk is eliminated. Risk is a part of all of our lives and learning to manage risk is what we are about, not eliminating it;
  • ‘Elf n safety':  has become a convenient basket into which to dump all risks and coupled with greater tendency for people to look to blame others has caused a good deal of confusion;
  • HSE Role: includes explaining and highlighting difference between important ‘real’ H&S work and much of this other activity – some of which is driven by other real factors and some of which is just plain nonsense;
  • Proportionality: one size does not fit all and the best and most comprehensive solution can very often be the enemy of not only the good but what actually works and is effective;
  • Economic downturn: not an excuse for not doing health and safety. Is an opportunity to reinvigorate a common sense, proportionate approach to help business succeed in a variety of ways;
  • Leadership: means accountability and visible ownership. Real health and safety leaders win hearts and minds of all their colleagues – directors, managers, workers and contractors – shaping the ethos of an organisation on H&S including what it is and what it isn’t;
  • Competence: is not simply about knowing your stuff or having the most up to date equipment. Real competence is about the ability to apply hard-earned knowledge in a way that is proportionate, meaningful and useful to the intended audience;
  • What’s in a name?: the HSE chair sees a strong case for moving away from the title of “Health and Safety Manager”, because ultimately all managers should manage H&S as an integral part of their job. ‘Advisor’, ‘champion’ or ‘facilitator’ are preferred;
  • Board involvement: all too often Boards appoint a manager and, if they are following HSE guidance, a Board director to “champion” health and safety. But this is not what is needed if the rest of the Board then abrogate their own responsibilities and; 
  • H&S Systems: management systems and procedures must fit the culture and nature of the work of the organisation. Shelves full of procedures in folders are highly unlikely to make a difference on a farm or in the office of a small factory. 

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