Study launched to examine public view of health and safety

A two-year study is being launched this autumn to examine how the social standing and perceived value of health and safety regulation has changed over the past 50 years and whether there is genuine public hostility to the notion of “‘elf and safety”.

The study will be carried out by academics at the universities of Reading and Portsmouth, and is being funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).

Professor Paul Almond, from the University of Reading’s School of Law and the project’s principal investigator, said: “Rates of injury and death have fallen, and health and safety management is an accepted part of business. But public hostility towards ”elf and safety’ has increased dramatically, with negative media coverage of these issues coming to the fore. So why do we think so badly of laws that seem to have been a success story and what can be done to alter public perception?”

The project will see researchers interview key stakeholders from health and safety practice, including former regulators, politicians and policymakers, workers and trade union safety representatives, employers and managers and others who have played a role in the law in this area over the last half-century.

Focus groups will assess public attitudes and perceptions towards health and safety regulation and analysis will look into the changing representation and arguments about it over time.

Jane White, IOSH research and information services manager, said the study was important because of the evolution of the workplace since the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and because of the current government focus on cutting health and safety red tape.

In a separate development, the Institute of Occupational Medicine has begun a research project to examine the current occupational safety and health landscape within the UK. The project, also funded by IOSH, is working to develop case studies to follow knowledge transfer processes within occupational safety and health. It is looking for employer case studies to examine how the flow of knowledge and information in relation to safety and health moves in different organisations.

Researchers are keen to track organisations that have made a change in relation to some aspect of safety or health in the past 12 months or are planning to do so in the coming months. If you would like to be involved, contact Joanne Crawford or Alice Davis.

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