This year’s annual conference of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health discussed key developments including the Black report on the health of working-age people and the merger of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Health and Safety Commission (HSC).
Work and pensions minister Lord McKenzie told delegates that Dame Carol Black’s report, Working for a Healthier Tomorrow, would help focus all those responsible for health and safety on the changing needs of working-age people.
“We have to recognise that not only is the working environment changing, but so is the workforce,” he said. “There are going to be greater numbers of older people, migrant workers and people who are coming back into the workplace after being on benefits. We need to find ways of supporting them.”
Andrew Selous, shadow minister for work and pensions, welcomed the Black report but said: “It’s just a shame it’s 11 years after this government came to power. Safe businesses are more profitable businesses. For too long it’s been too small a step from being signed off to being written off.”
McKenzie announced the HSE will receive £724m over the next three years, and the merger between the HSE and HSC is expected to be completed in the next few weeks.
“This is an exciting change, and one of the first tasks for the new body will be to carry out a fundamental review for the new workplace health and safety strategy,” McKenzie said.
He said that the government aimed to make health and safety part of general management training. “We are trying to get a greater appreciation of the need to manage health and safety by other professions and managers. We are trying to get it into their degrees or continuing professional development. We need to make sure health and safety is integrated as part of mainstream management training.”
HSE chief executive, Geoffrey Podger, told delegates that more needed to be done to protect workers in the refurbishment sector, after seeing photographs from a recent HSE campaign.
“The conclusion I would come to from seeing people working six floors up with no protection or working near big holes with no barriers is that their employers just don’t care.”