Businesses encouraged to take greater role in their own h&s measures

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a consultation on its new strategy: ‘The Health and Safety of Great Britain: Be part of the solution’, which aims to encourage workers to take a more active involvement in their own health and safety.

The strategy is set to focus more strongly upon ill health in the workplace than its 2004 predecessor, though HSE chair Judith Hackitt assured this would not in any way prioritise health concerns over those of safety, the dominant issue in industries such as construction.

According to the HSE, its decision to develop a new strategy has been prompted by the recent slowing of improvement in Britain’s health and safety performance; an increase of small businesses and the self-employed; the different risks posed by new sectors, and the need to regain the health and safety brand from those who misuse it to proliferate bureaucracy.

Hackitt pointed out that the strategy also takes into consideration the fact that many workplaces which already create an appropriate health and safety climate “are going to be challenged by the current economic climate.”

A number of goals have been set out:

• Promoting the benefits of worker involvement, whether the workplace is unionised or not;

• Customising the support for small businesses to help them comply with their health and safety obligations;

• Avoiding catastrophes in Britain’s high hazard industries;

• Encouraging strong leadership and championing a common sense approach to health and safety;

• Building competence of those charged with delivering health and safety in workplaces;

• Taking account of the wider issues that impact on health and safety and its delivery.

Hackitt stressed the need for a more joined up approach. HSE and Local Authorities will continue to work together to investigate work related incidents and secure justice, but workplace participation needs to increase.

Hackitt said: “Every worker has the fundamental right to be protected, but every worker also has the responsibility to take care of themselves and others who may be affected by their work.”

The strategy will also focus more strongly upon health and safety within small companies.

Hackitt said: “We have to recognise that small businesses need different things. We’ll be addressing how small businesses can enact their duty, but it is inappropriate to simply tell them what to do.”

The need for stronger leadership among duty holders will also be addressed.

A series of regional workshops across Britain will allow key stakeholders to take a more active approach and present the HSE with their views on the strategy.

The workshops will begin in Liverpool on 8 January 2009, followed by Newcastle (13 January), Bristol (15 January), Birmingham (20 January), Cardiff (22 January), London (27 January) and Glasgow (29 January).

The consultation period is due to conclude in around three month’s time, and the strategy is set to be launched in its final form during the second quarter of 2009.