Dame Carol Black was the first to admit, when appointed national director for work and health, that she had very little experience of occupational health. That admission in itself took courage.
She then set about finding out as much as she could through talking to stakeholders, visiting workplaces and making herself available to any forum, conference or study day that requested her presence: no event was too insignificant, no venue too far.
It is true that Black’s role seems like a ‘pantomime’ (Ockey Elf, Occupational Health, October 2007), but the fault lies with the government that created her position. The government does not give a tinker’s cuss about health at work (except in relation to getting people off incapacity benefit), and the position was created only because it played well with the media.
We could salute her for working damned hard to meet many people and hear their views and concerns, although she was not given the power to do much about it. At the same time, the government was dismantling the Employment Medical Advisory Service, taxing services related to occupational health as perks, throwing national institutions such as the Post Office to the dogs, and trying its best to opt out of its health and safety responsibilities enshrined in European legislation.
Association of Occupational Health Nursing Educators