Martin Temple Keynote speech for HSE Connect, Wednesday 20 February 2019
- Good morning everyone and welcome to HSE’s second annual conference.
- Today is all about connecting and sharing information with each other, but to what end? It’s about delivering success.
- You might expect me to define success in terms of reducing deaths, injuries and long-term ill health. However, for most people in the room, success will be about achieving and setting even more far reaching goals.
- For a moment, set aside the trauma to individuals, families and businesses that a death or serious accident will have.
- For businesses and organisations, success is also defined as improved costs, consistent quality and satisfying the customer on time.
- Frequently and understandably, when putting an economic value on health and safety we talk about the cost when things go wrong. As a businessman my mind was always dominated by doing things right all the time and the benefits it delivered to the bottom line. We were most profitable when everything went right, never when things went wrong.
- Imagine in your business, the benefits of having all your staff at work when you need them, fully active and clear on what they need to do. Trained to provide the products and services to a consistent standard, with well-maintained equipment.
- Those are the types of things you manage if you want to make sure your business runs well. And they are the things you need to do for good health and safety.
- So today is not just about helping you to achieve the wellbeing of your employees, it will also be about the wellbeing of your business.
- Some of the ways we improve and often the advice we trust the most, come from learning from the experience of others in similar businesses or organisations, as well as trade bodies or people like ourselves.
- Therefore, today we hope that we have set it up in a way in which you can learn from us and also each other. The focus is on health and safety, but the goal is having a better business.
- In a moment I’ll give you some statistics that illustrate that we have a lot more to do together, particularly on health if we want to achieve the improvements in health and safety that we believe are possible.
- We also have changes in the economic, political and regulatory landscape, which need to be considered, as well as changes in the social and technology areas that we must work our way through.
- So, how do we create a better understanding of what can be done?
- The statistics for Great Britain in 2017/18 show over 1.4 million people suffering from a work-related illness. Of this figure, stress, anxiety or depression accounts for 44%, musculoskeletal 35% and other types of illness 21%. Do you know that this number of people would fill over 1,500 Airbus A380 planes?
- And the number of injuries incurred at work, which is 555,000, would fill over 740 trains from Euston to Birmingham.
- Now, just imagine the public reaction if they saw all these trains and planes together representing these statistics. There would be an outcry to do something about it.
- Now these figures do not include the number of workers killed at work. Sadly, this was 144 workers with an additional 100 members of the public killed in work-related accidents.
- In addition, it is estimated that there are approximately 500 work-related road deaths per year.
- All these statistics are work-related. So will it have an impact on your business? Yes, of course it will. By having staff off work due to ill-health and injuries will impact on your productivity and business continuity, which in turn will inevitably affect your profitability. Health and safety has a direct link to the bottom line.
- That is why we want to help employers and their employees to understand the health risks they face in their workplace for the health of the business, not just the employees.
Looking out for each other
- This brings me back to today. HSE has a role, but together we all have a role to create an environment where everyone in the workplace – duty holders, employees, suppliers and customers – recognise that they all have a role looking out for each other.
- If you want to know what is going wrong with a product or service, a good start is to ask the person doing it, because that’s where the action is. It is the same on health and safety matters, be it physical or mental, those closest to the problem are usually best placed to help others.
- I am not suggesting for a moment that the duty holder’s role is diminished – the current systems remain vital but helping each other is such an important ingredient.
- How else can we help? There is no doubt that simplicity makes it easier for people to understand and respond positively. That is why we are keen to deliver on the ‘blue tape’ agenda.
- You might be familiar with the substantial work HSE has done to tackle red tape associated with regulation in recent years. As a result, we are confident that the legislative framework for health and safety is now fit for purpose.
- But in particular, SMEs tell us they are still burdened and are not sure what ‘good enough’ compliance looks like. So, we have been looking in more detail into the sources and drivers of these burdens, including the non-regulatory rules that businesses impose on other businesses – sometimes known as ‘blue tape’ – to see whether they are the problem. Things like accreditation schemes, management system standards, insurer requirements and consultancy.
- Let’s be clear, they can be a force for good, and drive improvement but our evidence shows that when the ‘ask’ is disproportionate to the level of risk, size and complexity of the business being asked to follow them, the rules become burdensome.
- For example, a stationery supplier was required by a Local Authority to accredit to a pre-qualification tender scheme which was originally designed to assess organisational health and safety competence in construction.
- So, what does proportionate – ‘good enough’ - look like? New HSE guidance ‘clears a way though the minefield’. A few highlights will give you an idea of what we’re doing to make things clearer. We’ve published guidance that says:
- Accreditation may not be appropriate for all SME suppliers. They may be able to demonstrate competence in other, less bureaucratic ways;
- If you are a contracting body seeking supplier accreditation as evidence, be aware that all the schemes operating under the Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP) umbrella ask identical questions, so there is no need to specify a preferred scheme; and
- The health and safety management system standard ISO 45001 (which replaces BS OHSAS 18001) may not lways be the most effective tool for evaluating a small supplier’s health and safety arrangements;
- Revised guidance will be out shortly that will make clear that paying a consultant for health and safety advice may not be necessary. Many lower-risk businesses can use or develop their own basic competence in-house. And do not forget that our Health and Safety Made Simple guidance says, “following this guidance is normally enough to comply with the law”. And we mean that.
- So today, let us think how we can ensure that simple and proportionate messages reach those smaller businesses, that are tight on resources, to do easily what is needed to keep their people safe. Remember, approximately 77% of businesses in a supply chain are SMEs and nearly one third of the deaths each year are to the self-employed.
- Today we also need to turn our minds to future challenges.
- At the front of our minds today, is the UK’s exit from the EU.
- Leaving the EU with a deal remains the Government’s desired aim and they have given a firm commitment to protect workers’ rights, whatever the outcome. We in HSE are working to ensure that we do our bit to support this commitment.
- So, my clear message to you here today is that the UK leaving the EU does not alter the obligation to ensure health and safety in the workplace and the wider environment.
- Whether it is the safety of chemicals or protections for employees, we are making the necessary preparations to ensure that, after 29 March, there continues to an effective regulatory regime to deliver the high standards of workplace health and safety that we are justly renowned for.
- As I am sure you are all aware, especially from the statistics I quoted earlier, stress and mental health are now high up on the agenda in terms of absence from work and societal problems. Unfortunately, we can’t inspect and diagnose stress and mental health easily like respiratory or musculoskeletal problems.
- But we are updating our stress management tools to help employers.
- We have also revised our First Aid guidance with Mental Health First Aid-England to clarify and increase employer understanding that mental health should already be considered alongside physical health when undertaking a first aid needs assessment.
- In the 1970s when the Health and Safety at Work Act was first introduced we paid people to take the risk rather than eliminate or sort it out. We paid dirty money, dust money and these sorts of practices and excuses were common place. Society did not fully appreciate, or want to understand, the long-term impact on the people that worked in hazardous environments.
- That was over 40 years ago and thankfully those times and rhetoric have changed. We know what causes ill-health, we know how to prevent it. But the problem still exists today. It still costs vast amounts of money to companies and the health care and related services – and it causes untold distress and trauma to so many people.
- We cannot let another 40 years go by doing nothing about it because it is either too hard or it’s not an immediate, visible injury like a broken leg or cut arm.
- I see the consequences of work-related ill health, but I can also see how the ‘74 Act has moved us on immensely, particularly on the safety side of health and safety. That is why the HSE strategy - Helping Great Britain Work Well - put a renewed emphasis on health. The time is right.
- To quote Benjamin Franklin from the 1730’s, but relevant today - “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Future world of work
- And talking of the future health of your employees, have you thought about what the future world of work would look like and the impact on your business? What your risks would be?
- The future may look very different to the current world of work and identifying what issues we may have to respond to in the future will be complex, as current trends show that the UK workforce of the future is likely to be multi-generational, older, more international, multi-cultural, more female and multi- company.
- The change in demographics will increase the importance of people being able to maintain their health longer into what we currently term old age. We extend life, yes through healthy living, but also medicine, so what jobs will older people do with their propped-up bodies?
- Technology will be pervasive, jobs more fluid and the global labour market highly competitive. Workers in the future will be doing jobs that do not exist yet and the skills needed in the workplace will be very different.
- If the future world is different and more complex, then what are the gaps in knowledge and understanding you will have to address and respond to? For example:
- Will your workforce have the necessary skills, and will you be able to tell what skills they have before you put them on a task?
- Will changes in types of employment, such as possible growth in the so-called sharing or gig economy affect your workplaces? Will you know who your employees are?
- And finally, if there are regulatory changes, particularly if you are an international company, will you cope?
- We all need to be thinking about how ready business is to tackle both the current and the future health challenges.
- Moving on, the growing reliance on IT controlled processes and systems has increased the vulnerability of industry to cyber-attacks. This can result in the loss of data or denial of service but may also have work-related safety impacts if safety critical systems are compromised.
- As national regulator for work-related health and safety, HSE has a role to play in ensuring that duty-holders manage these risks appropriately, including cyber security.
- HSE is developing policy and technical expertise in this area. Safety-related cyber security in the major hazard sectors (initially Chemicals and Energy) will be prioritised, in alignment with wider Government priorities.
- These are all issues that you (should) have knowledge about. So, I would like you to share them together so that we can use our collective wisdom in Helping Great Britain Work Well.
- There are over 100 different sessions today so plan your day well.
- I’ll end with a quote from the time management guru Alan Lakein “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”
- I hope you will find today interesting and insightful and thank you for coming.