It’s the time of year when we tend to take stock, looking back over the last few months and forward to the challenges likely to be presented in the new year.
There’s no doubt that 2016 has been a significant year for health and safety.
Introduction of the sentencing guidelines in February has driven a significant increase in the penalties applied for health and safety offences; Martin Temple joined HSE as Chair; Prince Harry spoke about mental illness on a world stage at the Invictus games tackling stigma head on; the UK voted to leave the EU, the Prime Minister resigned and a complete change of government ensued; there was a real high associated with UK achievements at the Olympics in Rio and this helped to raise the profile of physical and mental wellbeing in all walks of life; and the government released the long awaited green paper on disability, health and work.
The key theme running through all of this is change.
The UK economy is changing from an industrial to a professional and service base, driving changes in the nature of the work that people do. Technology is blurring the boundaries between life and work, offering new opportunities for flexibility, but also impacting on time for rest and relaxation. The gig economy is changing employment relationships with increasing numbers of people in transitory and short term roles which allow flexibility but potentially impact on personal resilience and financial security. The political environment is changing too with Brexit impacting both the UK and EU, and the American election affecting political regimes all over the world.
So, what does this mean for health and safety?
Undoubtedly, there needs to be an increasing focus on people. They are at the very core of every successful business. The political changes are likely to affect the availability of skilled labour from outside the UK, so businesses will need an increased focus on supporting and developing their workforce. The population is aging and pension changes mean that people are retiring later, so management of health issues is a key focus too. There is also a need to support and develop young people as they enter the workforce to embed a positive and effective approach to health and safety early in their working lives.
Health is the new safety! There is an increasing focus on the health and wellbeing of people at work. This has the potential to deliver significant benefits both for individuals and for organisations keen to protect their most important asset. However, this is an emerging issue, and there is much to do to develop a bank of guidance and good practice material to inform and support this work.
So, there are lots of new challenges to come in, and lots of opportunities to drive real and positive developments.
2017 will be an exciting year for the British Safety Council. It is our 60th Anniversary. We will be reaching out to members, clients and friends to help us celebrate our history, and to look forward into our future.
We have a proud history as an organisation, and are committed to continuing the work commenced by our founder James Tye and his vision that no-one should be injured or made ill by work.
We will launch a new manifesto in the summer to set out our approach to tackling emerging issues and continuing our support for effective and proportionate management of health as well as safety.
So, 2017 is shaping up to be a busy and exciting year all round. I hope that you will be able to join us in celebrating our Anniversary and continuing to drive improvement in health and safety for workers in the UK.
Have a great Christmas and New Year!
Policy, Standards and Communications Director | British Safety Council