Occupational health is an area where the newly chartered health and safety profession must be more involved, according to new IOSH president Neil Budworth, speaking at the IOSH Annual Dinner and Awards in December.
“[Occupational health] is an area that many safety and health professionals have chosen to shy away from, because it is seen as too difficult and on the edge of our traditional remit. But it is an area where we can make a huge difference,” he said.
Sayeed Khan, the health and safety commissioner representing professional bodies, also highlighted the importance of occupational health during his keynote address at the annual dinner, pointing out that while the profession could congratulate itself on achieving chartered status, there was still much work to be done.
“The bad news for health and safety professionals is that you’ve got no knowledge about health. You call yourselves ‘health and safety practitioners’, but, as Lawrence Waterman [head of health and safety consultancy Sypol] said, health is placed in the ‘too difficult’ box.” However, Khan did add that the knowledge was out there – it just has to be “pulled together”.
However, the fact that the IOSH/Sypol Lifetime Achievement Award went to someone who has campaigned against occupational disease and ill-health showed the profession’s desire to recognise those who have helped to get health onto the agenda.
Nancy Tait MBE, founder of the Occupational and Environmental Diseases Association (OEDA), received the award this year, for more than 25 years’ campaigning against occupational disease. As part of the award, OEDA received a bursary, which it intends to use to help raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos in the home.
“Today, there is still an asbestos problem that we need to tackle,” she said. “This is why we’re proposing to use Sypol’s bursary to make people aware that asbestos in the home could kill, and that this is largely responsible for the mesothelioma deaths that do not qualify for industrial disablement benefit.”