IOSH Magazine- May/June 2022

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How the Robens report changed OSH forever

Forestry and arboriculture face a thicket of problems

Five steps to champion social sustainability

NEVER AGAIN? C O L L A B O R AT E / I N F L U E N C E / E N H A N C E 1 Cover_May-June 2022_IOSH.indd 1

Five years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, we assess progress in tackling safety failings

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The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is the world’s leading professional body for people responsible for safety and health in the workplace.

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Press for progress W

e’re fast approaching the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, which provides an opportunity to remember, take stock, reflect and consider what has happened since then – and what needs to happen to ensure we never see a repeat of that terrible night. The public inquiry into the fire, now in its second phase, is still ongoing. Phase 1 looked at the events leading up to the fire, identifying the origin, the spread and the emergency response, and provided recommendations. Now in phase 2, it is focusing on areas of particular interest and importance, seeking to determine why the fire happened, and what can be done to prevent it happening again. Dame Judith Hackitt was commissioned to lead a separate review into building and fire safety. Her report, published in 2018, recommended a number of measures, many of which were included in the Building Safety Bill, which is currently going through the UK Parliament. This issue’s cover story (page 24) looks in detail at what progress has been made and, drawing on the expertise of people from a variety of backgrounds, explores what more needs to be done to ensure people living – and working – in high-rise accommodation are safe.


Like other tragedies that have cost many lives, Grenfell was entirely avoidable. There were similar incidents in the years leading up to it – including the Lakanal House fire in south London, in 2009 – but lessons weren’t learned. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity to implement new, robust measures around building and fire safety. IOSH has contributed regularly to this discussion, and we need to press for more progress on areas that OSH professionals have previously highlighted. These include the removal of unsafe cladding, the retrofitting of sprinklers and the accrediting of fire risk assessors. We’d also like to see the implementation of the new building and fire ‘safety case regime’, an increase in fire safety capacity and widespread promotion of good regulation as an investment rather than a cost. Of course, fire safety issues are not unique to the UK. There are high-rise buildings the world over and we have to question how safe they are. It is unacceptable that fire risk management in these buildings is still so lacking. What is clear is that we all, including OSH professionals, have a role to play when taking action to prevent harm and protect people’s lives and livelihoods. So it is clear there is still work to do, and we must continue efforts to ensure health and safety professionals have a major role to play in prevention, learning lessons, improving standards and driving a culture for change. Lives depend on it. Ruth Wilkinson H E A D O F H E A LT H A N D S A F E T Y, I O S H


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Contents SA F E T Y, H E A LT H A N D W E L L B E I N G I N T H E W O R L D OF W O R K






NEWS ANALYSIS How are organisations and OSH professionals tackling the pandemic’s mental health crisis?


DID YOU KNOW...? Key facts about the Grenfell Tower fire







What to expect from the second Vision Zero summit in Japan, and how it will drive change 4


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COVE R F E AT UR E Never again? As the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire approaches, we look at progress made and the wider OSH lessons

Lord Robens




ROBENS REPORT 50 years on We look at how the health and safety world has been transformed since Lord Alfred Robens’ seminal report in 1972



OPINION The wider view Online content, including a podcast on OSH inspiration and a webinar on the benefits – and future – of hybrid training


BACK TO BASICS Rehab and return to work How to help colleagues with readjusting to the workplace


TALKING SHOP Mental health Thoughts on how to encourage staff to talk about mental illness


E N HAN C E 64

IOSH members share their thoughts about important talking points


POLICY SHORTFALLS 10 pitfalls to avoid Scott Crichton identifies common health and safety policy mistakes and explains how not to repeat them

IOSH BENEFITS Help on hand The Helpline and dedicated Legal Line are two lesserknown perks that could prove invaluable



We speak to one of IOSH’s youngest Chartered Members

FORESTRY Not out of the woods Storms and financial cuts have seen continued needless deaths in the arboriculture and forestry sector

FUTURE LEADER Saravanakumar Natarajan

CATCH THE WAVE Championing people IOSH’s new social sustainability model aims to revolutionise people-centred business


MEMBER INTERVIEW James Pretty Globe-trotting Chartered Member recalls his experiences in the UK, Australia and Oman IOSH MAGAZINE

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New mental health website to tackle stress in farming P9 | IOSH forges stronger links across Europe P10 | The deep impact of the pandemic on mental health in the workplace P12 | The key facts and figures of the Grenfell Tower disaster P18 | Appeal over ladder death dismissed by court P20 | Sainsbury’s fined £1m after woman injured by baler twine P22

6 in 10 favour law giving right to ignore emails outside of work hours


New research published by Ipsos shows that 60% of the 1050 UK adults surveyed would support the introduction of legislation giving employees the right to ignore workrelated communications outside of their official working/on-call hours. For more about the research, go to ipsos-working-hours



TfL, Croydon tram operator and driver face prosecution over fatal crash


WHO? The UK-based Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has launched a prosecution of Transport for London, Tram Operations and Alfred Dorris, the driver of the tram involved in the fatal derailment at Sandilands tram stop in Croydon in November 2016. WHY? After carrying out its own investigation into the overturning of tram 2551, which left seven people dead and 19 seriously injured, the ORR has identified a number of health and safety failings that contributed to the tragedy.

How the Robens report influenced safety in Singapore

The risk-based OSH regulatory system introduced by the Robens report, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, has inspired other countries to revamp their legislation. IOSH magazine spoke to Ho Siong Hin, senior director at International WSH, to find out how Singapore has taken Robens’ philosophy forward. See Check out our feature on page 32, and our video marking 50 years since the report at videos/robens


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The GB Health and Safety Executive has issued two safety notices for offshore crane boom hoist ropes and the maintenance of industrial uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems. The move follows several dangerous incidents. Failures with the UPS systems identified that manufacturers’ standard operating and maintenance instructions did not provide adequate information to allow the safe and reliable operation of equipment.


The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSE NI) has launched a new interactive website aimed at helping the local farming community identify and deal with the stresses and pressures of farming life. is a confidential website developed by Rural Support, the Farm Safety Partnership and the Workplace Health and Leadership Group (NI). Users can complete a questionnaire developed by the World Health Organization to help them establish the level of stress they are experiencing.


All construction site staff and those with site responsibility should receive specific fire safety training to help limit or mitigate the damage caused by fires on future construction or restoration projects, argues the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS). The call forms one of the principle recommendations in the SFRS report on the Glasgow School of Art fire at the Mackintosh Building that happened in 2018, which the SFRS said had ‘represented the most complex and resource-intensive investigation’ it had ever undertaken and led. Find out what lessons are highlighted in the 72-page report at



Who? Figures published by the GB Health and Safety Executive reveal that 446 workers may have died as a result of being exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace. What? Total suspected occupational COVID-19 report information, in the period 10 April 2020 to 5 February 2022, indicate 42,059 disease notifications. Why? Research undertaken by HR software provider CIPHR also reveals that only 48% of companies plan to keep staff with COVID-19 away from the workplace. PHOTOGRAPHY: G ETT Y / ALAMY




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Building stronger links across Europe


OSH has been developing strategic engagement with and support for several OSH professional networks in Europe in recent months, consolidating existing links and creating new opportunities. Some of that work with partner organisations includes producing new webinars, promoting knowledge-sharing and research to prevent musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), and communicating health and safety messages. ‘Cooperation across Europe is increasingly vital as we recover from the pandemic and adapt to trade and supply chain challenges caused by new factors, including conflict in Ukraine,’ says

Alison van Keulen, IOSH strategic relationships business manager. ‘We’re delighted to be working with the European Network of Safety and Health Professional Organizations [ENSHPO] on a new series of webinars, which began on 7 April with presentations

and a discussion on European emerging trends in health and safety training. ‘I was joined by the vicepresident of the Asociación de Especialistas en Prevención y Salud Laboral in Spain, the president of the Associazione Professionale Italiana Ambiente e Sicurezza in

president Louise Hosking, chief executive Vanessa HarwoodWhitcher and head of strategic engagement Alan Stevens will lead technical sessions under the theme ‘Future business leaders: achieving safer and healthier performance and productivity’. 17-19 MAY: Safety and Health Expo, ExCeL, London (inperson event) – free entry:

IOSH will be delivering four sessions on social sustainability, musculoskeletal disorders and the supply chain. IOSH speakers include Louise Hosking; Lawrence Webb, presidentelect; Duncan Spencer, head of advice and practice; and Ruth Wilkinson, head of health and safety. 23-24 MAY: Safety, Health and Wellbeing Live, Manchester

Italy, and the president of the Magyar Munkavédelmi Akadémia in Hungary to explore OSH learning and development in different parts of Europe and share new approaches. ‘With ENSHPO, we’re promoting knowledge-sharing, including new research into how schools can contribute to long-term prevention of MSDs,’ Alison says. The IOSH policy team is also active in European efforts to contribute to positive change, such as its recent support for new EU legislation to ban products made by forced or child labour from entering EU markets. Dr Iván Williams Jiménez, OSH policy specialist for IOSH, called this ‘a big step towards promoting safe and secure working environments for all workers’. Find out more about IOSH’s collaborative activities at our-collaborations


IOSH on the road Throughout the remainder of this year, look out for IOSH presenting or exhibiting at some major OSH conferences and events around the world. 11-13 MAY: Japan 2022 Vision Zero Summit (virtual event): IOSH representatives including


Central (in-person event) – free entry: Here, the theme is ‘Empowering regional safety and health communities’. Louise Hosking will deliver a keynote presentation on social sustainability. She looks forward to catching up with members from the Midlands, the North of England and other regions.


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IOSH teams up in South Africa


IOSH marks World Day for Safety and Health with the ILO On 28 April, IOSH joined the International Labour Organization (ILO) in commemorating this annual awareness day, joining the ILO’s global Safe Day webinar and hosting our own Catch the Wave webinar. WHAT? This year’s theme, ‘Act together to build a positive safety and health culture’, focused on

how strong OSH systems are made more effective through dialogue and participation. WHO? IOSH and the ILO signed a memorandum of understanding in November 2021, agreeing to collaborate to use their reach, influence, and technical and training expertise to achieve positive impacts through safety, health and wellbeing at work. WHY? IOSH’s vision for a safer and healthier world of work aligns with the ILO’s main aims to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen social dialogue on work-related issues.



ASK FOR IOSH CAMPAIGN We’re giving a boost to our training products and our training provider network with refreshed branding, messaging and promotional resources. WHAT? IOSH Training creates, develops and updates our well-regarded suite of courses, which is delivered worldwide by a network of almost 2000 training providers. Recently, we refreshed its visual branding and rolled out a new ‘Ask for IOSH’ campaign. WHY? We’re proud of our courses and all the dedicated trainers who deliver them, enhancing OSH awareness at work. The new ‘Ask for IOSH’ social media ads and other resources will help training providers promote to their customers.

IOSH is continuing to support efforts to drive occupational safety and health forward in Africa, and will be playing a leading role in the upcoming health and safety conference of the South African Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (Saiosh). IOSH is a main sponsor of the event, which takes place in Gauteng on 31 May and 1 June, and president-elect Lawrence Webb will present the Institution’s Catch the Wave campaign. This is the latest development in IOSH’s collaborative relationship with Saiosh. The organisations signed a memorandum of understanding and IOSH’s courses have been on Saiosh’s CPD framework since 2020. Alan Stevens, IOSH head of strategic engagement, said: ‘IOSH is delighted to have a long-term collaboration with Saiosh, and my thanks go to [CEO of Saiosh] Neels Nortje, a true visionary in the world of OSH. ‘South Africa leads the way on integration and uptake of CPD within the OSH profession and, by featuring IOSH training on the Saiosh CPD framework, South African OSH professionals are able to access IOSH training materials to demonstrate their professional capability.’ Neels Nortje added: ‘Saiosh is delighted to welcome IOSH back to South Africa once again and we look forward to a successful and fruitful conference. We have a long-standing partnership and – I consider – friendship with IOSH, and we value the support and progress we have made together over the years, taking great strides together to a safer world of work in South Africa.’ To find out more about the event, visit


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t is no huge surprise that COVID-19 has affected the world’s mental health. Over the course of 2020, cases of depression and anxiety increased by more than 25% around the world (Santomauro et al, 2021). In Britain, the number of adults who reported experiencing some form of depression increased from 10% before the pandemic to 21% in early 2021, and then reduced slightly to 17% in summer 2021 (Office for National Statistics, 2021). Sixty-five per cent of 10,000 UK adults said their mental health had got worse since the first lockdown, and 26% said they had experienced mental distress for the first time (Mind, 2021). The economic cost of poor mental health is also vast. Lost productivity caused by anxiety and depression costs the global economy $1tn a year, a figure predicted to rise to $6tn by 2030 (Lancet Global Health, 2020). The annual cost of poor mental health to UK employers was £45bn (Deloitte, 2020). These figures pre-date the pandemic, and a clear picture of how mental health impacts of the pandemic have affected global economies in monetary terms is still being formed. But the impact on the workplace is demonstrable.

Clash of consequences Research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that COVID-19 was among the main causes of stress at work: 31% of those surveyed attributed their stress to new work-related demands or challenges due to homeworking, while 23% identified COVIDrelated anxiety as the main factor (CIPD, 2021). Mental ill health remains the most common cause of long- and short-term absence, with stress in particular leading to considerable sickness absence: 33% and 48% of respondents placed it among the top three causes of short- and long-term absence respectively (CIPD, 2021). Eighty-four per cent of employers took additional measures to support employee health and wellbeing through an increased 12


Deep impact The huge mental health consequences of the pandemic will continue to affect workplaces as we move into an endemic phase. How are organisations and OSH professionals tackling the mental health crisis? WORDS ANNA SCOTT


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IN FIGURES focus on mental health (CIPD, 2021). ‘Looking ahead, the upcoming publication of the UK government’s Living with COVID strategy will result in organisations’ wellbeing and absence practices being further scrutinised,’ says Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD. ‘We’ve seen many employers step up their efforts to support staff with their mental health and wellbeing over the past two years; these learnings need to be carried forward.’ Absence isn’t the only consequence for organisations. ‘Conversely, you might have presenteeism: dissatisfied, demotivated individuals,’ says Nick Wilson, director of health and safety services at consultancy WorkNest. ‘Those who work while sick take longer to recover and their lack of enthusiasm/continued illness can lower workplace morale. The result is dissatisfied, demotivated individuals and the next thing you know, one of your key metrics takes a hit with increased staff turnover. Poor organisational culture then becomes evident to somebody from the outside looking in.’ WorkNest has seen an increase in the number of companies asking for mental health advice and turning to OSH professionals for help on the risks connected to anxiety and stress. Nick says this may be exacerbated in those suddenly ‘catapulted into this existence where they no longer have daily face-to-face interaction with their managers and peers’. He adds: ‘The problem is we’re not medical practitioners, but we are often regarded as a sort of one-stop shop for anything that is health-related.’ Research from Nick’s company has found that 59% of business decision-makers say the pandemic has fundamentally changed how their organisation views workplace

health and safety and that it will continue to be a priority in the future (WorkNest, 2021). But the survey also found that 36% of employees and 35% of decision-makers describe their organisation’s health and safety culture as ‘reactive’. Sometimes, employers will contact WorkNest ‘once a situation with an individual has progressed to a point where it’s actually become a medical issue, at which point there’s very little that people can then do, other than to steer them towards some kind of medical professional’, Nick explains.

Preventive measures The GB Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched the Working Minds campaign in November 2021 to encourage both recognition of the signs of stress and subsequent action to remove or reduce it, in a bid to make such considerations as routine as managing workplace safety risks. As well as publicising the ‘5 Rs’ to tackle mental ill health (see panel on page 15), the campaign also features the launch of a new hub with tailored content for employers and employees, while the HSE has begun a series of blogs and developed a network of subscribers, champions and campaign partners. ‘The campaign will be delivered in phases to allow us to keep the messages relevant to the situation as things change – as people return to the workplace, as the “new normal” becomes established, and as the impact of work changes for people,’ Rob McGreal, policy adviser on the workrelated stress and mental health team says, adding that next on the agenda are a mobile app, a new quiz designed to help employers understand the legal basics, and sectorspecific research. ‘It’s too early to understand the full impact of the pandemic on workers’ mental health. Each and every business is affected – while some jobs have continued relatively unchanged, others have had to make significant adaptations,’ Rob says. A proactive approach to psychosocial

The UK

822,000 workers across Britain suffered from new or long-standing work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2020 and 2021 (HSE, 2021)

451,000 workers across Britain suffered from a new case of work-related stress, anxiety or depression in 2020 and 2021 (HSE, 2021)

449,000 new and long-standing cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety were made worse by the pandemic (HSE, 2021)

£43BN The estimated cost to UK employers of workers taking time off due to illness or injury in 2021 (GoodShape, 2021)


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BUSINESS OWNERS AND MANAGERS NEED TO CONSIDER THE IMPACT OF HOME-WORKING, HYBRID WORKING, AND RETURNING TO THE WORKPLACE FULL-TIME risk management that takes an overview of all work-related risks is crucial. Claire Dalton CMIOSH, owner of training company Live for Work, has adapted standard training courses to cover topics that include returning to work following time off due to mental ill health, and identifying the signs and symptoms of poor mental health early. ‘Business owners and managers need to consider the impact of home-working, hybrid working and returning to the

workplace full-time, and put support and training strategies in place,’ she says. ‘Consultation with employees and managers with regard to types of training and support provided will be most suitable; there is no “one size fits all” and it will be difficult to regulate. But it has been proven that many people are no longer willing to work in unsupportive environments that affect their mental and physical health, so many businesses will lose good workers if they don’t adapt.’

Line managers and OSH professionals alike need an awareness of how stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues manifest and present, Claire says. Good, consistent communication with teams and an open-door policy – virtual or real – are needed, as is ‘the understanding that poor mental health will affect the person’s whole being and can make someone very ill’. Kevin Hithersay, a mental health first aid trainer who works with a range of sectors, including construction and the armed forces, says OSH professionals should look out for changes in behaviour and appearance, such as being absent from work or working more hours than usual. ‘It’s about approaching somebody at the right time, the right place and asking “Are you alright?”,’ he says. ‘If that person says


employees. They enlisted the help of a

home-working, while also protecting our site

former professional footballer who had

workers who were still carrying out essential

struggled with his mental health, and talks

project work. Where possible, we continue

from other mental health experts, including

to work using a blended solution allowing

Mental health for me Construction faces a particular challenge

Lynda says: ‘The therapist

people to split their time between office and home-working.’

regarding mental health in that the sector

sparked some interesting

Lynda says HB Projects is

is predominantly male. Research has found

conversations. It’s her

continuing to invest in

that men are twice as likely as women to

view that often her

have mental health problems due to their

patients will say they

with all employees

job (Mind, 2017), and are less likely to reach

have one problem,

receiving a half-day

out for help.

but she’ll help them

awareness course,

‘There’s a traditional view of men in

mental health training,

realise they actually

and line managers

construction that they can just carry on and

may have anxiety,

taking Mind’s

get the job done,’ says Lynda Parkinson,

or a problem with

group health, safety and environment lead

eating habits,

at HB Projects, a principal contractor firm

for example.’

based in Bradford, West Yorkshire (right).

COVID-19 brought extra

‘We wanted to make it clear that it’s okay

challenges, admits Lynda.

to talk, or to not be okay.’

‘Like many in construction, we had

HB Projects developed a mental wellbeing


a psychosexual therapist.

MH Champions course (Mind, 2019). They have set up a wellbeing team to plan campaigns and initiatives, and are currently launching a series of

to ensure we considered the health and

financial wellbeing seminars and one-to-one

roadshow visiting regional offices and

wellbeing of both sides of the business –

financial adviser appointments in response

sites with the goal of engaging all 178

assisting office-based workers to adjust to

to concerns over the rising costs of living.


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“Yes, I’m fine”, you could say something along the lines of, “Well, I’m worried about you. If you want to come and have a chat, this is where I am.”’ He says the HSE’s management standards on stress, which cover six key areas of work design that if not properly managed are associated with poor health, are ‘absolutely pivotal to what directors and senior managers should be reaching and understanding, doing the policies, getting the risk assessments in place and listening to staff ’.


Three steps Professor Neil Greenberg, a consultant occupational and forensic psychiatrist who was part of NHS England’s response to protect the mental health of NHS workers in 2020, says workplaces need a preventive medical approach to mental health, training both managers and ‘peer supporters’. His team at King’s College London researched the delivery of a one-hour training package called REACT (Recognise, Engage, Actively listen, Check risk, Talk to them about specific actions) to NHS staff. This provides workers with a template for

MANY PEOPLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS REMAIN SUSPICIOUS THAT IF THEY SAY SOMETHING, IT WILL IMPAIR THEIR CAREER OR REPUTATION active listening and ‘psychologically savvy’ chat. ‘It’s an easy win,’ he says. Neil also recommends an approach in which senior people in organisations talk about negative mental health experiences in a positive way. ‘Although it’s really useful to have education to talk to everybody and say, “We believe in mental health”, the fact is that many people with mental health problems remain suspicious that if they say something, it’s going to impair their career or reputation. What you really want within an organisation is to look for the people who have had difficulties in the past and who have come through them,’ he adds.

The ‘5 Rs’ of the HSE’s Working Minds campaign 1

Reach out to workers, colleagues, trade unions and managers.


Recognise the signs of stress in yourself and others.




Respond to the things people are telling you – listen to their concerns and develop ways to tackle them. Reflect by thinking about what’s been done and check if it’s working for you and your workers. If it isn’t, consider why and explore possible alternatives. Make it Routine – take regular opportunities to check in on mental health and stress. Assessing the risks from any hazard is not a one-off process; things change.


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A planet on the edge

Unparalleled opportunity Peter Jenkins, group health and safety manager at food company Dalziel, says OSH professionals have been exposed to more mental health needs than ever before and are rising to the challenge admirably. ‘The OSH profession has come together like in no other time against a common risk, COVID; the

RE S O U RCE Avoiding harm: prevention first:


same opportunity exists for meeting mental health needs,’ he says. ‘At the very least, the pandemic has given all businesses an unparalleled opportunity to define their values-based actions and develop their management systems around human factors,’ he adds. ‘The impact of pandemic-rooted mental health needs on businesses has been felt across every scale and size of organisation.’ At the same time, the OSH profession is held in higher esteem than ever before. Forty-three per cent of IOSH members said they felt valued since COVID-19 struck and 63% say their role was highly regarded within the organisation. In addition, 72% said mental health and wellbeing in the workplace should be part of their role. The initial mental health impact of the pandemic and its effect on work is broadly understood, and data is still being collected. As research continues and the daily impacts of COVID-19 change, we will begin to understand the medium- and longterm consequences for mental health. In the meantime, supporting people in the workplace with a preventive, psychosocial approach to managing risks associated with mental health remains crucial.

To view the references for this article, go to mental-health-covid


The third approach Neil recommends encourages organisations to talk openly (without giving individual details) about instances of things that have gone wrong and potentially contributed to employees’ poor mental health, and the ways in which they rectified matters. ‘Where something has changed, you need to make a song and a dance about it, about how things are different from the narrative that people generally have of that organisation,’ he says.

Over the course of 2020, global cases of depression and anxiety increased by almost 28% and 26% respectively, according to the first study to assess the global impact of the pandemic on major depressive and anxiety disorders (Santomauro et al, 2021). People living in countries severely impacted by the pandemic were most affected, especially women and younger people, according to a systematic review of data reporting cases of anxiety and depression in 204 countries and territories between 1 January 2020 and 29 January 2021. Study leader Dr Damian Santomauro, senior research fellow at the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, says that past population shocks had led the researchers to expect to see an increase, but they were taken aback by the size of it. ‘I was also surprised to see that the prevalence increase in the elderly was much smaller than in younger age groups,’ he adds. ‘I had expected older age groups to be more severely impacted due to their vulnerability to the virus and negative impacts of social isolation.’ The researchers have begun compiling new estimates for 2021 and 2022 to establish how the incidence of depression and anxiety has changed as we have moved through the pandemic. ‘The waves of COVID-19 during 2021 were substantially larger than during 2020 and across more countries,’ says Damian. ‘So there will likely be locations where we estimate greater increases in prevalence during 2021 than 2020.’


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It’s nearly five years since the Grenfell Tower fire. We take a look at the timeline of events and some of the key statistics around the tragic incident.





Grenfell resident Behailu Kebede calls 999 to report fire in flat 16 on floor 4


‘Stay put’ advice officially revoked

1962 British Standard Code of Practice sets the first standards for high-rise residential buildings. This introduces the ‘stay put’ in case of fire policy

Responsibility for assessing fire risk in buildings shifts from the fire service to building owners under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2

1974 Grenfell Tower is built as part of the Lancaster West Estate in North Kensington, west London


2001 Manufacturer Arconic’s aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding fails a Building Research Establishment fire test with ‘catastrophic’ results


2016 The Grenfell Tower refurbishment is completed. ACM cladding is installed on the walls, along with Celotex RS5000 insulation



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Firefighters at the scene at the fire’s peak. Over the course of the operation, 250 firefighters attempted to control the blaze

318,725 Number of documents disclosed to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry


The amount spent by Kensington and Chelsea Council on securing 307 homes for survivors

Percentage of buildings with the same type of cladding that have not been made safe in England as of December 2021 B B C New s, 20 22; G renfel l To wer I n qui r y, 20 22; Wa i te, 20 22; A pps, 20 21; Kn utt, 20 21; M o o re- B i ck, 2019; S ephto n , 2018 ; Co n str ucti o n I n dex , 2017

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Appeal against ‘unfair’ £1.1m fine in ladder case dismissed


design and construction company’s appeal against a £1.1m fine after an engineer fell from a ladder and suffered life-changing injuries has been dismissed. Modus Workspace was prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work Act for failing to discharge its duty. The firm was refurbishing a warehouse in Hemel Hempstead, UK in 2016. On 5 September, while testing a sprinkler system for leaks, a subcontractor leaned an extension ladder on an internal roof against an exterior wall. The ladder gave way when he stepped on it, and he fell three metres (9.8ft) through a gap, sustaining serious injuries, including severe blood loss. At the original trial at Luton Crown Court, the judge said the injured man had not been warned about the gaps and that any available warnings were inadequate. The judge also said there were serious and persistent failures and lapses in some procedures, and the company’s conduct had fallen ‘far short of the appropriate standard’. When sentencing, the judge considered the company’s accounts, which showed a turnover of more than £50m over the preceding three years. A letter from the company’s auditors on the

impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the business forecast £40m turnover for the company for the 2020 period. Based on this information, the judge classified Modus as a large organisation, and with a high level of culpability, the judge took a starting point for the fine of £1.1m. The company appealed against the fine amount, arguing the trial judge was mistaken in the application of health and safety sentencing guidelines. It argued it should not have been classified as a large organisation, or the judge should have made a reduction to the fine’s starting point because of the loss-making projection at the time of sentencing. At appeal, the judge found that the original trial judge had based the sentence on the business they were presented with. Their view of the company’s future financial health and the possible impact of the pandemic was reasonably open, and it

Guidelines do not require judges to pay regard to a company’s future performance

was wrong to claim the judge was not aware of the economic realities of the company’s situation. The appeal judge agreed with the trial judge that the company was not loss-making and was not projected to have a substantial reduction in its turnover even during the pandemic. The trial judge did account for the projected downturn in business when sentencing but could do no more, and sentencing guidelines do not require judges to pay regard to a company’s future performance. Some mitigating factors were applied to the company, namely its previously good health and safety record. However, this incident could have very easily ended in a fatality, with the breach being serious and persistent and causing serious harm. Increasing the fine could be both expected and easily justifiable. The appeal judge ruled the original trial judge’s sentencing was not unfair, unbalanced or disproportionate. The original fine was ruled to be neither wrong in principle nor manifestly excessive, and the company’s appeal was dismissed.


Modus Workspace claimed in court that loss-making projections should have led to reduced penalties.


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LEGAL This sponsored content has been provided by Cedrec Information Systems, available at



New merchant shipping regulations The Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Entry into Enclosed Spaces) Regulations 2022 apply to all UKregistered ships and all other ships when in UK waters. They aim to prevent seafarers being injured or killed in confined spaces by placing duties on ship owners, masters, employers and others to take measures to protect seafarers from related hazards.


Consultation on revised gas safety management The GB Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has consulted on the proposed review of the Gas Safety (Management) Regulations 1996, which aimed to ensure that domestic gas supply market liberalisation would not reduce safety standards. The legislation creates significant processing costs and could prevent the UK from diversifying its gas sources to support its net-zero commitments and ensure supply security. The HSE said it was reasonable to review gas quality limits to establish whether they reflect safety or commercial constraints

and to determine whether the benefits of regulating quality justify the costs. Proposals were made regarding adapting and lowering safe gas composition limits and clarification on the inclusion of biomethane pipelines as part of the gas network.


Ban proposed on firefighting foam chemicals The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has brought forward a proposal to restrict the use of all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in firefighting foams across the EU. The ECHA investigated environmental and health risks posed by using PFASs in firefighting foams and concluded that the risks are not adequately controlled and releases should be minimised. Restrictions would prevent further groundwater and soil contamination and health risks for people and the environment. The ECHA’s scientific committees will assess the proposed restriction options and consider the evidence. The EU will then

decide on any restrictions or conditions.


Safety Action Plan published Ireland’s Health and Safety Authority and Construction Safety Partnership Advisory Committee have published a Construction Safety Action Plan for 2022-24. It sets out five key objectives to: • Standardise the approach for health and safety management • Improve client awareness/ compliance on small, high-risk projects such as one-off builds and construction on farms • Improve safety consultation, worker engagement and encourage facilitation of safety representatives • Examine existing Construction Skills Certification Scheme courses with a view to identifying new subjects required/needed by industry, and consider new ways of delivering Safe Pass • Raise awareness of occupational health in construction.


Consultation on Poisons Act amendments The Home Office has published a consultation

into proposed amendments of control measures for sales of explosive precursors and poisons under the Poisons Act 1972. The proposed amendments aim to deliver the government’s counterterrorism commitments following the use of poisons and explosive precursors in terrorist attacks in the UK. They consider new measures to reduce the threat from the illicit use of such materials in a way that is proportionate for the public and affected businesses.


Guidance on Electromagnetic Compatibility Regulations 2016 The Office for Product Safety and Standards has published updated statutory guidance to help businesses placing electrical and electronic equipment on the market in Great Britain to comply with the Electromagnetic Compatibility Regulations 2016. The guides have now been updated to clarify product-labelling requirements, reflect the extension of the transition period for UKCA marking, and refer to EU Market Surveillance Regulation 2019/1020, now in force in Northern Ireland.


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Sainsbury’s must pay £1m after twine shatters customer jaw


£1.5M FINE FOR FATAL CRANE FALL WHAT’S THE STORY? World-renowned former steelwork specialist Cleveland Bridge UK has been fined £1.5m by Teesside Crown Court after an electrician fell more than 7.5 metres (25ft) to his death.

When and where? Patricia Crampton was riding her mobility scooter at Sainsbury’s Newbury store on Hectors Way on 21 June 2020. How did it happen? In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the store implemented a queuing system to enable customers to queue in a socially distanced manner. A mixture of metal and plastic temporary barriers was spaced apart and baler twine – more commonly used for securing cardboard once it has been crushed into bales – was used to delineate the queuing area. What went wrong? The victim rode her scooter through a perceived gap where the baler twine

– which has a high tensile strength and is intended not to break easily – had been strung between two structural pillars. Patricia suffered serious facial injuries, including fractures to her jaw and damage to her teeth. The incident was reported to staff, who immediately administered first aid and called an ambulance to take the victim to hospital. The twine was immediately removed and a message sent to all other stores. Sainsbury’s confirmed that baler twine was not being used in this way in any other store. What did the court say? The retailer pleaded guilty to one health and safety offence at Reading Magistrates’ Court. As well as the £1m fine, Sainsbury’s was ordered to pay costs of £18,263. West Berkshire Council gave IOSH magazine an exclusive interview on the case. See sainsburys-twine for more.

THE INCIDENT On 25 October 2016, Keith Poppleton had been making repairs on a large overhead gantry crane at Cleveland Bridge’s site in Darlington when a walkway access panel gave way under his feet. The 54-year-old fell to the ground, sustaining fatal injuries. THE INVESTIGATION An investigation by the GB Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had failed to maintain the crane walkway’s access panels. IN COURT Cleveland Bridge was found guilty of breaching sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, regulation 5(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations, and regulation 8(b)(i) of the Work at Height Regulations. On top of the fine, the company was ordered to pay costs of £29,239. Read the full HSE investigator interview at cleveland-bridge


What happened? Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s has been convicted of health and safety breaches for the first time after a customer suffered catastrophic facial injuries when she collided with baler twine.


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Recycling firm fined £2m for corporate manslaughter WHO?

A company and three of its bosses have been fined more than £2m over the death of a worker who suffered catastrophic head injuries at a recycling plant in Oldbury.

• A forklift truck driven by company director Malcolm George being used to lift Stuart over five metres (18ft) into the air to clear a blockage, with no safety rigging. • Staff walking on a conveyor belt to clear blockages.


Stuart Towns walked underneath a hopper, which housed powerful engines used to feed a conveyor belt with scrap metal, at the Alutrade Ltd plant on 24 July 2017. A gate preventing workers from accessing the area was broken, and the machine should have been shut down and isolated if any kind of maintenance or cleaning work needed to be done on it. Minutes later, 34-year-old Stuart’s body was discovered by colleagues. He had suffered catastrophic head injuries and died at the scene. HOW?

A major investigation analysed an entire month’s CCTV footage, and found hundreds of breaches. They included: • Workers jumping up and down on metal in a hopper to clear blockages.


Alutrade admitted corporate manslaughter at Wolverhampton Crown Court last month. It was fined £2m with £105,514 costs. Directors Malcolm George and Kevin Pugh, as well as health and safety manager Mark Redfern, were initially charged with gross negligence manslaughter, but instead pleaded guilty to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act. They admitted the charge on the basis that their failings didn’t cause the death, but responsibility for corporate manslaughter rested with the management of the company as a whole. The defendants each received individual fines. CCTV footage from the plant has been released by West Midlands Police. Watch it at



CLAIM POSSIBLE FOR SLIP AT HOME WHO? A German court has ruled that a man who slipped and broke his back while walking from his bed to his home office can claim on workplace accident insurance as he was technically commuting. WHY? The employer’s insurers initially refused to cover the claim. While two lower courts disagreed on whether the short trip was a commute, the higher federal social court said it had found that ‘the first morning journey from bed to the home office [was] an insured work route’. HOW? The court said: ‘If the insured activity is carried out in the household of the insured person or at another location, insurance cover is provided to the same extent as when the activity is carried out at the company premises.’ The amount claimed under the insurance is not known.

CERTIFICATE FORGER JAILED WHO? Hanif Miah Md Nurul Islam was sentenced to six weeks’ imprisonment under section 53(c) of Singapore’s Workplace Safety and Health Act for knowingly using a forged certificate to gain employment as a formwork supervisor. WHY? In 2015, Hanif obtained a forged supervisors’ formwork safety certificate for a fee. Between September and December 2020, he was appointed as a formwork supervisor at least four times based on the forged certificate. In doing so, he falsely represented that he had completed the course, when he had not undergone the necessary training. WHAT? In February 2021, the Ministry of Manpower investigated after a subcontractor asked it to verify the authenticity of Hanif’s certificates. Investigations revealed he had received no training required for him to be familiar with the relevant hazards.


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NEVER AGAIN? As we approach the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, we look at progress in tackling widespread safety failings, and at the wider lessons for OSH professionals.


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Listen to our interview with Dame Judith Hackitt about the UK government’s U-turn on the role of a building safety manager:

n September 2021, an article in The Times trailed government plans to demolish the charred remains of Grenfell Tower in west London (Wheeler et al, 2021). The suggestion was greeted with protests from Grenfell United, a group of survivors and bereaved families of the 72 people who died in the fire that engulfed the 24-storey local authority apartment block in June 2017. ‘How can the tower be demolished before the legal process concludes,’ the group asked, ‘when no judge in the land can confirm it won’t hinder future criminal prosecutions?’ No ministerial confirmation of the demolition has followed, but the timescale for the replacement of the building’s skeleton with a memorial is just one of many questions that remain unanswered five years after one of the UK’s worst peacetime catastrophes. Who will pay to remediate fire safety hazards on hundreds of other residential buildings? And will the slew of upcoming regulatory changes be enough to create a safety regime that can prevent further tragedies? In January, secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities Michael Gove proposed new measures to ensure flat owners in mid-rise buildings 11 to 18 metres tall, or 36 to 59ft (typically four to six storeys) are not charged to remove combustible cladding like that on Grenfell Tower, and to make developers fund the estimated £4bn remediation bill. The government has also announced funding to cover residences taller than 18 metres (or 59ft), which are classed as ‘higher risk’ after the Grenfell fire. But hazardous cladding is only the most prominent of a range of fire safety

failings exposed at Grenfell that may leave residential block occupants across the UK at risk. Others include combustible material on balconies, breached fire compartmentation (intended to keep fires spreading between residences) and inadequate smoke ventilation systems. It is still not clear where the rest of the estimated £15bn needed to remedy these hazards, according to an estimate by the parliamentary Housing, Communities and Local Government committee (2020), will come from. There have been numerous tweaks to the regulatory system to close gaps identified by Grenfell, including the Fire Safety Act 2021, which revised the responsible person’s duties under the Fire Safety Order, including


A new regulator A major change recommended by the Hackitt review was the creation of a Building Safety Regulator (BSR) in England to oversee the safety of high-rise residential buildings under construction and in use, and promoting improved competence among construction professionals and the building control profession. The Building Safety Bill will turn the

confirmation that these extend to exterior walls (see Grenfell Tower response, page 27). But the major changes will happen after the Building Safety Bill becomes law this year. A phased introduction of elements of the new regime, based on Dame Judith Hackitt’s review recommendations, will tighten the processes for approving buildings and the people and products involved in their construction and maintenance.

Up to the job Dame Judith Hackitt’s review and the Grenfell inquiry have both highlighted the risks posed by a lack of knowledge about ensuring fire safety among key actors, from architects to fire risk assessors. The Competence Steering Group (CSG), representing more than 150 organisations, recommended that

recommendation into law and the GB Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is due to take on the BSR role. The HSE is already operating as BSR in ‘shadow’ form, advising on implementation of the bill and secondary legislation, and providing industry guidance on safety and other issues. The HSE’s funding has been cut by more than a third over the past 10 years, but it will not have to manage the BSR role with existing resources. It was given £16.4m to cover the work in the financial year 2020-21. The BSR will act as

the sole building control body for all higherrisk buildings. It will also sign off building plans for higher-risk buildings – those with seven or more storeys or that are at least 18 metres tall (59ft), with two or more residential units, or are hospitals or care homes – as fit to construct, and then the final construction as safe for occupation. It will have powers to prosecute duty holders for ignoring compliance notices or providing false information and will be able to order unsafe building products to be taken off the market.


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working groups introduce or enhance the competence of 12 professions and trades, from system installers and construction supervisors to fire risk assessors, especially for high-risk buildings, in its report Setting the bar (CSG, 2020). Overseeing the implementation of the CSG’s recommendations will fall to the new Building Safety Regulator (BSR) – see A new regulator on page 25 – when the Bill becomes law, including the establishment of an industry competence committee, which will challenge professional and trade bodies to fill gaps in existing frameworks and draft guidance to duty holders on how to choose competent people. In advance of these developments, new codes have been developed for specific disciplines. The Royal Institute of British Architects has produced new guidance for members on health and safety, both on site and in building design – including fire safety – and in November 2021 launched a mandatory online Health and Life Safety Competency Test based on the guidance. A new approved code of practice for fire risk assessors emphasises the need for assessors to be accredited and for them to have a thorough understanding of the characteristics of particular types of building – such as multi-occupied highrise residential homes – before taking on assessment work for that building type (Fire Sector Federation, 2020). Malcolm Shiels is package safety health and environment manager at Costain and chair of IOSH’s Construction Group. He says the detail of the duty holder roles and the new competence requirements will encourage people to meet the standards, because they will no longer be able to dodge responsibility in the event of a failure, and the HSE, as BSR, will be able to prosecute with the threat of prison and unlimited

‘THE LEGISLATION IS CLEARLY FRAMED TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR THE REGULATOR TO POINT THE FINGER AT INDIVIDUALS’ fines. ‘The legislation is clearly framed so that if, heaven forbid, something similar happened, it would be easier for the regulator and ministers to point the finger at individuals,’ he says. The implications of the competence requirements for eligibility for professional insurance, which are increased in the Bill, will narrow the field of people willing to take on key roles in the construction process such as the principal designer duties under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. ‘It

will be a smaller pond but a more competent one,’ he says. Dr Brian Cox, who represents the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Construction and Building Services Division on the CSG working group, says the competence issue extends beyond the professions and trades contributing to building safety, but to making sure everyone understands the new regime the Bill will usher in. ‘There’s a lot of training to be done to achieve the kind of culture change Dame Judith talked about,’ he says.


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Messages of condolence on temporary hoardings and the covered remains of the Grenfell Tower


Lost independence An issue that has recurred in the second stage of the Grenfell inquiry is whether an appropriate distance was maintained between the certification and building control bodies and the companies whose products and projects they authorise. One example was highlighted in evidence given by former employees of the National House Building Council (NHBC) that the organisation continued to give building control approvals to projects using the manufacturer Kingspan’s K15 combustible insulation – which was used on part of the Grenfell Tower refurbishment – despite internal concerns that the product was hazardous. In February, John Lewis, a former NHBC fire engineer, told the inquiry that although he suspected Kingspan of withholding evidence about K15 failing fire tests, the NHBC accepted proposals to use the insulation on high-rises.

‘Independence was lost,’ says Malcolm of the building control and product regulators. ‘The arrangements became too cosy. The commercial elements in the decisionmaking process took precedence over others. If you didn’t work in construction and you looked at these bodies, and what they say they stand for, you would think: “They are a third-party body and if I’m buying a storeys-high apartment they are there to protect me and ensure building work is carried out to a high standard.” But because of the payment mechanisms they could almost put themselves out of business with some clients if they had done what they ought to have been doing.’ It’s not clear if measures such as the BSR’s ability to ban unsafe construction products or the removal of the ability for high-rise developers to ‘shop’ for building control approvers will be enough to offset this closeness between the gatekeepers and those seeking to pass through.

Held to account Many of the new building safety regime’s provisions apply to new-build higherrisk buildings. But for all buildings in occupation, whenever they were built, there will be a new duty holder – the accountable person – representing the building’s owner. They will be responsible for satisfying the BSR that a building is safe for occupation. They will have to gain a safety certificate from the BSR by submitting a ‘safety case’ report. The report must contain risk assessments for fire and structural threats, building condition reports, and detailed descriptions of active and passive fire controls. The HSE in its role as shadow BSR has already issued guidance on safety case principles for buildings in its scope. The safety case regime has been well


Grenfell Tower response 2017 14 June Grenfell Tower fire 15 June Police investigation launched 29 June Grenfell Tower Inquiry announced 28 July Independent review of building regulations and fire safety (Hackitt review) launched

2018 17 May Hackitt review final report

2019 30 October Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase 1 report published

2020 28 January Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase 2 hearings begin 20 July Draft Building Safety Bill published

2021 29 April Fire Safety Act passed

2022 July (expected) Building Safety Act passed

2023-24 (expected) Staged implementation of various Building Safety Act provisions


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established for high-hazard installations such as oil and gas platforms and chemical plants for decades. ‘We think it will be quite a bit simpler because a residential building is comparatively simple from an engineering point of view,’ says Brian. ‘But it’s a bit more complex from an operational point of view because it is full of residents.’ Does he believe the safety case requirement will go a long way to ensuring high-rise residential buildings remain compliant with the building regulations? ‘Once it is operational it will,’ he says, ‘but it is obviously going to take the BSR several years to get through all these buildings.’ An estimated 12,500 buildings in England are expected to be covered by the requirements (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, 2021). The consultation between the tenant management organisation and Grenfell Tower residents during the building’s refurbishment was poorly handled, with legitimate concerns about fire safety

‘CONVERSATIONS SHOW PEOPLE AREN’T AWARE OF THIS AND AREN’T TAKING ANY NOTICE’ brushed aside. ‘If we can implement the legislation as it’s meant, it should help individual householders who live in highrisk buildings,’ says Malcolm. ‘It will give them a much bigger say in everything from access to information to involvement in refurbishment schemes.’ Malcolm says the shock effect of the Grenfell disaster on most duty holders and sector organisations, and the regulatory changes in train, should be enough to make a future disaster in a high-rise very unlikely. His only caveat is how far the changes in attitudes and standards will reach

through supply chains. ‘People in the SME market aren’t aware of this and aren’t taking any notice,’ he says. ‘They just want to go to work, earn their money and go home.’ If that remains the case, the maintenance of building safety will depend on how those smaller contractors are instructed and monitored by other duty holders. Some do not share even Malcolm’s qualified optimism. Gill Kernick is a safety consultant specialising in highhazard industries. Her book Catastrophe and systemic change: learning from the Grenfell Tower fire and other disasters, was published in 2021. Her close attention to the fire and the government’s response was partly driven by her residency in Grenfell Tower between 2011 and 2014, and the deaths of seven of her former neighbours in the disaster. What is needed is systemic change, she says. ‘A systemic approach would require grappling with some messy


The review and the inquiry The Grenfell Tower Inquiry is chaired by ex-Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, while former GB Health and Safety Executive chair Dame Judith Hackitt (right) chaired the independent review of building regulations and fire safety. The inquiry’s remit is to investigate the events of the fire and the circumstances that made it possible. The phase 1 report findings, published in 2019, found that combustible cladding and insulation materials were instrumental in allowing the fire to spread

quickly from a single flat to the whole building. The inquiry’s second stage is still under way, taking evidence on certification and approval of building products and the control regime.

The Hackitt review took evidence in late 2017 on the adequacy of measures to assure the safety of high-rise residential buildings during the planning and construction stages and in operation. Its final report in May 2018 recommended ‘gateways’ at which a residential building over 10 storeys had to gain regulatory approval before construction or occupation could proceed. Other

recommendations included the establishment of a new authority to oversee stricter enforcement of the building safety regime and a clear duty holder for the safety of residents of high-rises. Most of the Hackitt review’s recommendations, some in modified form, were incorporated into the Building Safety Bill currently going through parliament, along with some of those concerning information provision to residents recommended by the Moore-Bick inquiry.


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GRENFELL TOWER LEGISLAT ION issues,’ Gill writes. ‘Issues such as the role of political lobbying by product manufacturers, the independence of self-funding testing and certification bodies, the trade-offs being made under the guise of sustainability, and the limitations of siloed governance and regulations.’ She argues a systemic approach would adopt principles that create safety, not by adding layers of rules to eliminate unsafe conditions and acts, but by modelling what creates safe conditions and building a regime around those principles. Gill says she had hoped Gove’s proposals to make developers and construction companies take responsibility for remediation of residential fire hazards might have signalled more of a coordinated approach, but ‘rather than a “coming together” from all stakeholders and collaboratively creating solutions that are palatable to all, we’re seeing government edicts that are rejected or fought against by the insurance industry or developers.’



BSM requirement to be scrapped As IOSH magazine was going to print, the government announced its intention to remove the legal duty to appoint a building safety manager. As the dutyholder for high-rise residential buildings, accountable persons must determine how best to meet the duties placed on them and what arrangement they require. To read more about the changes, visit

Wider lessons Five years on, many of the processes the Grenfell Tower fire set in train have yet to conclude. The inquiry is in its second phase. A police investigation is not expected to result in criminal charges, if any, until the inquiry report is issued. The major provisions of the Building Safety Bill are still to take effect. And thousands of apartment block residents still live in uncertainty about who will pay to make their homes safe. Malcolm hopes the building industry could see the overhaul in safety as a potential lever for the sea change needed to realise other priorities, such as decarbonisation and the provision of more homes. ‘Out of all that heartache we have an opportunity to make big steps of improvement. If we can get the right leaders to pull all those strands together and support the Bill, there is a great opportunity.’ He says the most important lesson OSH professionals can learn from Grenfell is to steer organisations away from the belief that the cheapest option is the best one, and he encourages them to use their widening skills base to influence commercial decisions. He also recommends that members working in organisations likely to commission building or refurbishment work in the coming years make themselves familiar with the Building Safety Bill and other regulatory changes: ‘At some point their employer is going to come to them and ask them questions about it.’ Ruth Wilkinson, IOSH head of health and safety, says: ‘Whether working within the construction industry, as building owners, clients, OSH professionals or regulators, everyone should act now to ensure the right resource, knowledge and competence is with the right people for their roles, responsibilities and accountabilities.’

Fire Safety Act The UK Fire Safety Act clarifies the parts of a premises that apply under the Fire Safety Order (FSO). The FSO applies to all non-domestic premises in England and Wales. These include multi-occupied residential buildings, such as blocks of flats, although individual flats are excluded. Responsibility for complying with the FSO falls on the Responsible Person, which may be the freeholder, management company or managing agent, depending on local arrangements. The new legislation states that, where a building contains two or more sets of domestic premises, the FSO applies to: The building’s structure and external walls (including windows, balconies, cladding, insulation and fixings) and any common parts All doors between domestic premises and common parts, such as entrance doors (or any other relevant door). If contracting out this work, you must make sure that those engaged to complete the fire risk assessment include these elements, as you are responsible for complying with the FSO and liable for any necessary remediation. A Responsible Person is responsible for overseeing the removal or reduction of fire hazards in their building and for implementing reasonable measures to ensure the safety of all residents, those employed to work in the building and visitors to the building. Fire and rescue authorities can issue enforcement notices if they decide Responsible Persons or duty holders have failed to comply with any FSO provisions. They can prosecute or serve alteration or prohibition notices if they identify that failing to comply with those provisions puts people at risk of death or injury from fire. For guidance, see addendum to the Fire Safety Act:

For references to this article, go to Grenfell-anniversary


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50 years after the publication of the Robens report, we look at how this transformative document is still influencing health and safety in the UK and beyond P32 | IOSH’s Helpline and Legal Line are two important benefits that could prove invaluable P38 | Member reflections: your thoughts and opinions on key issues P41 | The wider view: webinars, podcasts, videos and much more P45






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The 1972 Robens report and the organisations it gave birth to transformed health and safety in Britain and has shown remarkable adaptability even half a century later. WORDS NICK WARBURTON

uly 2022 marks 50 years since the Robens committee, led by Lord Alfred Robens, published its landmark report, transforming Britain’s regulatory OSH approach and creating a ripple effect felt as far away as Singapore and Australia. The report, Safety and health at work: report of the committee 1970-1972 (Robens et al, 1972), outlined a series of recommendations aimed at overhauling the nation’s fragmented and overly prescriptive OSH regime. Accidents and fatalities at work by 1970 were unacceptably high and the UK regulatory system wasn’t working. One of several catalysts for change was the Aberfan disaster on 21 October 1966 when 144 people – 116 of them children – were killed by a tip of coal waste sliding onto their South Wales village. The tribunal that was later held into the disaster concluded: ‘Blame for the disaster rests upon the National Coal Board’ (Aberfan Tribunal, 1967) – the same coal board that Lord Robens was chairman of when the disaster occurred. While his conduct at the time of the disaster and his ultimate appointment to the committee has drawn criticism over the years, the committee’s work was a success, underpinning the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA) (The British Academy, 2016). It was the committee’s recommendation

to change the nation’s fragmented and overly prescriptive OSH regime with a more flexible system that emphasised what Robens termed ‘self-regulation’. The new regime also extended OSH protections to a greater number of workers and, for the first time, the public. The committee’s recommendations were substantively enacted in the HSWA, which received royal assent in July 1974, exactly two years after the Robens report was published. This pivotal legislation created two new bodies: an independent, tripartite Health and Safety Commission (HSC), and the GB Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a regulator enforcing health and safety legislation in workplaces, except for those regulated by local authorities. The HSWA also promoted the idea of health and safety as integral to good management, introducing codes of practice and general duties to reduce risks ‘so far as reasonably practicable’ (Almond et al, 2016).

Better standards Traditional heavy industries played a major role in the British economy in the early 1970s, radically different to the UK’s service-based and increasingly digital economy of today. Even so, there is a strong case to be made that the HSWA and the



Robens philosophy that underpinned it have brought about tangible improvements in Britain’s safety record up to the present day. Kevin Myers, who started his HSE career as a factory inspector in 1976 and rose to become the body’s deputy chief executive, certainly believes so. ‘Fifty years on, you would expect some improvements anyway because of the reduction in high-hazard industries,’ he says. ‘But does that explain the fact that there has been a 90% reduction in fatal accidents over that period? The evidence suggests not, and that a significant percentage of those improvements reflect better standards. ‘However, 142 GB workers had fatal accidents in 2020-21 [HSE, 2021a], so there’s no room for complacency.’ Kevin is part of an informal project team whose remit includes exploring the impact the Robens report has had on OSH over the past five decades – a project initiated by Kevin and his colleagues, who have invited IOSH and other organisations to collaborate and help shape it.

Anniversary project The Robens report is the first of three 50-year anniversaries coming up in quick succession. The HSWA reaches that milestone on 31 July 2024, and January 2025 marks the anniversary of the creation of the HSE. Then there is the OSH system that emerged, evolved and developed on the back of these three landmark events. As part of their project, Kevin and other former HSE colleagues, including past directors and executives David Snowball, David Ashton and David Eves, are putting the final touches to three documents to coincide with the Robens anniversary. The first is an essay by David Ashton that considers why in May 1970 Barbara Castle, secretary of state for employment and productivity, chose Lord Robens to undertake the first-ever comprehensive review of Britain’s regulatory OSH system. The second looks at how and why specific report recommendations were or were not implemented. The final document will

explore whether the Robens philosophy has made a difference, given that our world of work is so different from that of 1972. ‘This is not some nostalgic look backwards,’ explains Kevin. ‘It’s to see whether there are things we can learn from the past to help us address some of the current and future challenges. The 50th anniversary provides that opportunity.’ The essay is a logical starting point as it reminds readers why a rethink of the OSH system was required in 1970 and why and how the committee reached its conclusions. Historian Christopher Sirrs has also thrown light on this. In an article for the journal Social History of Medicine (2016), he noted that nine acts and more than 500 regulations governed the safety, health and welfare of workers before the HSWA took effect. This prompted the Robens committee to conclude that regulation had become overly detailed and was promoting apathy in industrial circles. Some workplaces were subject to conflicting requirements while others had no legal coverage, Christopher adds. Almost a third of the British workforce received no statutory protection from work-related accidents or illness (Sirrs, 2015). One of the committee’s main conclusions was that overall responsibility for managing OSH should clearly sit with employers – who create the risks in the first place – working in partnership with their employees.

Measured debate David Ashton’s essay is important in this respect because it provides valuable material for more informed discussions about what Robens said in the report – particularly in relation to references that drew criticism at the time and have done ever since. ‘There are misconceptions, one of the most persistent being what he meant by


Singapore Singapore based its first OSH regime on the British Factories Act 1961. Introduced in 1973, the prescriptive legislation only covered workplaces defined as a factory. However, after a major highway incident in 2004 resulted in four fatalities, the Ministry of Manpower brought in the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act 2006, which reflects the Robens report recommendations. Over time, this legislation has been extended to all workplaces. ‘We adopted the principle that it should be an enabling act and is performance-based,’ explains Ho Siong Hin, senior director, International WSH. The WSH Act focuses on the


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ROBENS REPORT Lord Robens, pictured here in 1973, ushered in a new era of health and safety


self-regulation,’ explains David. ‘This has been interpreted as “Get the regulator (and their burdensome regulations) out of the way, encourage and allow businesses to regulate themselves and all will be well.” But that’s not actually what he said.’ Jenny Bacon, who was in charge of the team at the Department of Employment and Productivity that implemented the Robens report, and later the HSE’s first female director general, says the onus on self-regulation was about asking those responsible for managing risks to identify them and set out how they would manage them effectively. This, she says, was a gamechanger. ‘If you want to put the onus on industry, then you’ve got to have a common approach to risk assessment and prevention,’ she says. employer’s ability to manage the risk, he adds. ‘Whether there is an injury or not is not the issue. It’s about making the workplace safe and the processes safe.’ Adopting the UK’s ‘goal-setting’ philosophy, Singapore formed the independent Workplace Safety and Health Council (WSHC), which represents views from government, employers, trade unions and academia. The WSHC has three priorities: encouraging industry to raise its standards to an acceptable level, building industry capability to selfregulate, and promoting what good performance looks like. According to Ho Siong Hin, Singapore’s fatal accident rate in 2004 was 4.9 per 100,000 workers. However, the ministry’s first 10year plan saw this rate reduced to 2.5 per 100,000 workers by 2015. In 2019, the rate fell to 1.1 per 100,000 workers.

Sound philosophy This philosophy has served the OSH regime well and Kevin feels it is as valid today as it was back then. He points to the reports of Lord Young (2010) and Professor Ragnar Löfstedt (2011), and the HSE’s triennial reviews and periodic regulatory reviews, and argues they have all concluded that Robens’ basic design principle is absolutely sound. ‘One of the things we want to do in this project is explore: “Why does the HSE still exist?” It has stood the test of time because it was established on a premise of what people would recognise now in a broader context of better regulation,’ Kevin says. IOSH’s first female president Daphne Linton (1996-97) was a factory inspector when the HSWA came into force. She remembers how it redefined approaches to safety. ‘Instead of looking for breaches of a code of regulations, we started to look at how organisations assessed their risk and what could be done to reduce them,’ she says.

Sheila Pantry OBE, head of the HSE’s information services in the 1970s and author of the History of Occupational Safety and Health website, says the creation of the HSE as a single, unified regulator was a groundbreaking move. The problem with having so many different inspectorates was that it could often lead to piecemeal and sometimes conflicting enforcement, she says. David Snowball concurs. Rereading the Robens report, he was reminded of how critical its author was of some of the inspectorates, how they worked and their efforts to reduce risk. ‘That was a hugely brave thing to recommend, to bring all these potentially warring inspectorates together,’ he says. ‘Robens is quite brutal in places about the extent to which he thought traditional faceto-face intervention had any real lasting impact on overall standards and outcomes.’ Kevin argues that one of the defining differences between the old regime and Robens’ regulatory system is that the latter is based on ‘adult-adult’ relationship between the regulator and the regulated, rather than an ‘adult-child’ one. ‘That’s very different from a commandand-control approach centred on compliance with prescriptive rules,’ he says. ‘At the end of the day, it is about how the people who create and manage risk step up to discharge that adult responsibility.’

Real responsibility Looking back over Robens’ legacy, David Snowball argues that one of the long-term success stories is how individual sectors, such as the oil and gas industry, have had to take greater ownership and responsibility for improvements after major disasters, such as Piper Alpha in 1988, in ways that also require an independent regulator to target its own efforts more effectively. Kevin points to the OSH profession’s enhanced profile over the past 50 years and the significant contribution it made to


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C O LLA B O RATE Our latest video looks at how the Robens report changed OSH forever. Watch it at

overall improvements, albeit when the relationship within industry works well. ‘Sometimes, however, that relationship can also become adult-child,’ he explains. ‘We as regulators need to influence people’s behaviour and convince others to take the responsibility for OSH. OSH professionals that are not regulators have a similar challenge.’ Daphne agrees, saying soft skills are almost more important than technical expertise. ‘Getting on a good footing with people and getting them to talk and tell you what’s happening is very important,’ she adds. One of the challenges of looking back over 50 years is the fact that the statistics aren’t always comparable. Although the figures for fatalities fell – from 651 in 1974 to 142 in 2020-21 – health has been a much harder nut to both measure and crack (HSE, 2021b).

Robens abroad Malcolm McIntyre CFIOSH, former global health and safety audit manager at Bovis Lend Lease, says it was Robens who brought health to the forefront. ‘It took a while to get going, but it has grown and we now place a huge emphasis on health in construction projects,’ he says. ‘Post-Robens, health started to mean something. Before that we never talked about guys sweeping the floor creating silica dust and needing to wear eye and face protection.’ Aside from its enduring legacy in the UK, Robens’ risk-based approach has also gained traction overseas,

MENTAL HEALTH, AI AND CYBER RISK ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES OF THE FUTURE including in Australia and Singapore. When Australia first adopted the Robens’ risk-based approach, it was introduced through the country’s six states and two territories. This led to calls from industry for a more consistent approach, and in 2011 Safe Work Australia developed a single set of work health and safety laws. They also took the opportunity to update the Robens approach to reflect contemporary challenges, such as the gig economy. ‘Companies like Uber will now have a responsibility under the Australian law for drivers that are allegedly all independent subcontractors, but in everyday terms work for them,’ says Kevin. He argues the OSH regime is flexible enough to adapt well to a changing world and that the UK could take a leaf out of Australia’s book by amending the drafting of the HSWA so the responsibilities for managing risk in the gig economy are more explicit. Singapore is also an interesting case as it adopted Robens’ risk-based system through the creation of the Workplace Safety and Health Council (see Going global on page 34).

Safety culture To listen to the HSE’s Philip White and Peter Brown talk about the Robens report, go to ioshmagazine. com/2021/11/04/hse-podcast

Reflecting on her international work, Daphne says that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the regulatory system is or what country you are operating in. ‘If

you’ve got a good factory manager and a company that supports them, you’ll have a good factory. If you’ve got a factory manager who isn’t at all interested in health and safety, you’ll have a poor one.’ Kevin concurs. ‘No matter how effective you are as a regulator, if the people that control and manage risks don’t respond to that, you won’t have the improvements that are needed.’ Looking to the next 50 years, David Snowball feels the OSH agenda is getting more complicated, and cites mental health, artificial intelligence and cyber risk as some of the main challenges. Like his colleagues, David Ashton believes the UK’s OSH regime is still fit for purpose. However, he echoes the Robens report’s closing remarks about needing to sustain interest and initiative. ‘Yes, we need them both – but there is a danger of moving from the apathy he criticised in the 1970s to “indigestion” now,’ he warns. ‘People think, “I really do get this health and safety thing and I really want to have the right standards, but it seems indigestible when you are tied up in written risk assessments”. I’m not saying [they] are right, but that is a view that is quite widely expressed and manifests itself through fairly clumsily designed deregulatory initiatives,’ David adds. For Peter Brown, the HSE’s director of engagement and policy, the Robens report remains a defining moment not only in the HSE’s evolution, but also in Britain’s workplace culture. ‘Our economy and our workplaces may have changed dramatically in the past 50 years,’ he says, ‘but the same principle that all workers should be able to go home safe and well still stands and lies at the heart of the work HSE does and will guide us through the next 50 years.’


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OSH members are aware that being part of the Institution provides many great benefits, not least the magazine that you hold in your hands or read on screen. But while the magazine is a benefit in material form, there are other less physical assets that IOSH can provide. Two of the most underused facilities that IOSH offers are potentially two of the most useful: the IOSH Helpline and the IOSH Legal Line. Here we look at how these valuable resources could help to make your professional lives just a little easier.

THE IOSH HELPLINE We spoke to Wendy Payne and Andrew Smith from the IOSH Helpline to find out more about how it operates and what it can do to help.

What is the Helpline?

HELP ON HAND The IOSH Helpline and the dedicated IOSH Legal Line are two benefits that could prove invaluable. 10 MINS

‘The IOSH Helpline is a support service offered by IOSH free of charge. It provides expert advice on a variety of issues to anyone who needs it,’ Wendy says. ‘The Helpline team consists of health and safety consultants, including a former health and safety officer from the manufacturing industry, and GB Health and Safety Executive (HSE) infoline employees. All team members are qualified to diploma level and have other health and safety qualifications in areas such as construction, fire, environmental and food safety. All team members are also members of IOSH, including some who have achieved Chartered status.’

What does the Helpline provide? ‘We give free advice regarding a range of topics, mainly health and safety but also fire safety, environmental, food safety and legislation, both national and international. We can also locate statistics, case law, and research on a range of


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subjects,’ Wendy says. ‘We pride ourselves on responding to calls and emails in a timely manner. Not only do we operate between 8am and 6pm (GMT) in the office, but we also have an out-of-hours phone, which the team operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.’

What are the most common queries? ‘The most common questions we are asked are about RIDDOR [Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013], as these decisions often require a degree of interpretation,’ Andrew says. ‘As you would expect, over the last two years, questions relating to COVID-19 have been very common. These have been a little more difficult than most other queries due to the requirements and recommendations changing quite frequently, and the fact that requirements often differed between countries.’

What’s the most memorable query you’ve ever handled?


‘I think one of the most memorable queries that the Helpline has ever received was whether badgers can catch Legionnaires’ disease!’ Andrew says. ‘As you would probably expect, there wasn’t a great deal of information on this topic. But it appears very unlikely since there are extremely few diagnosed cases of this disease in animals of any kind.’ To read more about the Helpline and Legal Line, visit To contact the IOSH Helpline directly, call +44 (0)116 257 3199.

THE IOSH LEGAL LINE Beverley Bates, advice services director of Markel Law LLP, provider of IOSH’s Legal Line, explains how this dedicated specialist advice resource, which is included as part of an IOSH subscription and accessible through the IOSH Helpline, can benefit members.

What is the IOSH Legal Line and what can it do for IOSH members? The service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and the advice is provided by our team of 50-plus qualified solicitors and tax advisers (tax or VAT experts are available during normal office hours). Advice can be sought on a wide range of matters affecting the running of your business. This could relate to employment matters, contract issues, debt collection, property matters or taxation concerns and much more. All our calls are recorded and we call the enquirer back to avoid them incurring a telephone charge. Access to the advice line is unlimited and you can contact us as many times as is necessary. We can also provide templates and guidance documents when they are needed. Our satisfaction ratings are very high, with over 95% of our customers rating us as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.

What kind of expertise does the Legal Line draw upon? Markel can trace its history in this area back to the early 1980s. In that time, we have handled millions of calls from a wide range of businesses including sole traders, SMEs, right up to firms with hundreds of employees.

Are there any common queries that you receive? The Legal Line handles a wide variety

of queries, although with two-thirds of them relating to employment matters, typical queries include disciplinary action, grievances, incapacity, employment tribunal claims and procedures, contracts of employment, capability, redundancy and resignation, to name but a few. Additionally, common queries for our commercial team include landlord and tenant queries, contract issues, debt collection and data protection issues.

What can IOSH members use it for? We provide telephone legal and tax advice related to business in the UK. While we will look to help on all occasions, there may be specialist areas of advice where it would be more appropriate for members to appoint a solicitor rather than use a telephone helpline. Even in these limited situations, we will look to provide initial advice to assist the member.

What is the most memorable or trickiest query you’ve ever handled? There are too many to choose from! However, one of the most memorable was an employment query from a car garage where 12 members of staff were ‘caught’ after they climbed into a customer’s Mini and then took pictures. We were able to help with disciplinary and training for the staff, as well as how to deal with any issues arising from the customer, who had recognised their car on social media! To call the IOSH Legal Line, contact the IOSH Helpline and ask for legal support: +44 (0)116 257 3199.


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Are you on top of your CPD? Did you know… •

IOSH has a dedicated CPD team on hand to support you through your CPD. Call us on 0116 257 3239 or email to

Completing a qualification

Attending a training course

Reading the IOSH magazine

Reviewing updated legislation

Reading journals, articles, or other subscriptions

Conducting research

Undertaking projects at work

Other work tasks, including completing a risk assessment, updating a policy or procedure

Completing an accident investigation

Attending a conference or exhibition

Attending branch or group meetings and seminars

Show them you care


Prioritising your continued professional development, demonstrates to your employer or clients that you are committed to keeping your skills, knowledge and expertise up to date.

Attending job interviews

Job applications

If you’re struggling with what to add to your CPD record, you can check out IOSH’s handy checklist that will help you tick off what is required - it’s as easy as that! Regular completion of CPD is mandatory for technical, graduate and chartered members, as well as chartered fellows. Completing your CPD doesn’t have to cost you a penny, although investing in one of our CPD courses is a brilliant way to boost the skills you need while quickly completing your CPD.

It can be a great way to showcase your professionalism at interviews or when pitching to new clients.


There are a huge variety of activities which can count toward your CPD. This can include the following: •

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What else do you need to know?

With so many ways to maintain your CPD it’s never been easier to evidence your learning. Just remember to log your CPD throughout the year, to stay on top of it.

Don’t fall behind, check out our website for more information at

08/04/2022 11:02




What do you think of the topics covered in IOSH magazine? Here’s a collection of member views, taken from over the last few months.

after the Motor Cycles (Wearing of Helmets) Regulations 1973. Many older members will remember the campaign for Fred Hill, who was jailed on numerous occasions for citing freedom of choice. The reason for a dearth of Sikhs within the construction industry is quite simply peer and parental pressure. The industry is very much a buddy and mates environment where there is the pressure to fit in. With falls from height being the main cause of fatalities and life-changing injuries, including falling objects, is it any wonder parents would want to deter [their children] from pursuing this career path? As a parent and former motorcyclist who has witnessed a number of people killed – or survive with life-changing injuries, including brain damage, which destroyed a work colleague's promising career and marriage – I would certainly be concerned if people started quoting freedom of choice and decided not to wear a crash helmet or hard hat on a construction site. On our increasingly crowded highways, with car

Re: Why wellbeing is now central to hybrid work strategies CF: Behavioural – Communication

from a system that offers them no benefits.

drivers becoming ever more safely cocooned

Has anyone else had experience of handling

in their cars, hard hats and crash helmets

this sort of situation?

offer a last line of protection in an already


dangerous environment. Falls from height

(Communicating effectively)

Prior to 1 October 2015, the exemption for

It is interesting that, like almost every article relating to hybrid working, the focus is on those who are going to be taking up the option and looking after their welfare.

Sikhs from the requirement to wear a safety

Re: The truth about turbans CF: Technical – Culture and Health & Safety Law

In my workplace there are a few employees

Dear Mr Singh,

whose jobs mean that hybrid working is

I think, in your article of the January/February

not an option. They are finding it hard to

issue, you have missed a point here.

adjust to a much quieter workplace, less

don’t discriminate because of your faith.

To understand why there is a shortage

interaction with colleagues and a feeling

of the Sikh community working within

they are suffering adverse consequences

the construction industry, we need to look at the bigger picture. Having worked in the construction industry for a few years, I have some understanding of this situation. Although mention is made only of hard

I OSH ’S COMPETENCY F RAM EWORK competency-framework

hats, we mustn’t forget that sections 11 and 12 of the Employment Act 1989 granted Sikhs exemption from wearing hard hats. This follows on from the exemption from wearing crash helmets in 1976, three years


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helmet applied only to construction sites. It now applies to all workplaces. However, there are exceptions relating to the armed forces and emergency response services, where employers can still require Sikhs to wear

Fear of Covid is not a belief, says judge – as he rejects discrimination claim

safety helmets. While the law does allow an exemption for those of the Sikh faith, where a turban-

CF: Technical – Culture

of a person’s life. The article lists the

wearing Sikh chooses not to wear the head

Not sure the judge

qualifying aspects of a philosophical

protection provided, the exemption includes

understands what a ‘belief’ is –

belief, and it is obvious to me that

a limitation on the liability of the duty holder

surely the extremist propaganda

point two and three are not met,

should an incident occur.

surrounding the lethality of

as the court also found.

My own view is that the law should apply to

COVID has rooted that ‘belief’ in

Also I am not sure how anybody

everyone. It just adds fuel to the fire for those

people's minds. Moreover, if he’s

can surmise that a disease that has

citing freedom of choice. As parents, we are

working on the idea of belief

killed around one in 500 people

all health and safety advisers to our children.

being linked to faith, it's not the

in many developed nations needs

Hard hats and crash helmets help to alleviate

realm of the courts to define

‘extremist propaganda’ to highlight

our concerns that they will come home in one

(or redefine) what a personal

its lethality.

piece. Statistics have shown that, over the

theology is. Go figure.

last 50 years, protective headgear saves lives.

Joe Bloggs

I think that when certain issues arise in our

Just as a few examples, one in 388 US citizens, one in 409 Belgians, one in 433 Italians and

industry, it is sometimes good to look outside

Is fear of COVID a religious belief

one in 455 British people [died]. In

the box and share our experiences, as we all

or a philosophical one? I struggle

any other circumstance one in 455

come from different walks of life – not just in

to see how it would fit either

would be seen as terrifying. If one

our working lives, but in our leisure pursuits

definition. For example, veganism

in 455 planes leaving Heathrow

as well, and here we will sometimes find the

is a protected belief system as it

crashed, that would be two a day!

answers we are looking for.

falls squarely into the philosophical

Barry Pitcher

Stuart Inkster

bracket – it governs the way a

person interprets the world and affects multiple aspects of their life.

Paul Singh CMIOSH, safety and risk management professional in the construction, mechanical and engineering sector, responds: Thank you for sharing your thoughts. First, it is positive that the published piece on Sikhs and safety has been a catalyst for this exchange of views and conversations to take place. I think that the responding reader has missed the key point of my IOSH magazine piece. I am not advocating special dispensations for turban-wearing Sikhs in relation to the use of PPE; rather, I am highlighting that there remains a significant

Fear of COVID infection is very narrow and specific to one aspect

LET US KN OW Do you have an observation or comment on an article you’ve read in the magazine or online? Or perhaps you’ve had to deal with an incident at work? Contact the editorial team with your thoughts and you might see your reflections on these pages. Contact us at

disparity between the number of turbanwearing Sikhs working within construction as general contractors or labourers, and those from the same group dynamic who work as health and safety management practitioners within construction. Thank you.


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The wider view OPINION

A helping hand In our latest opinion piece from the IOSH presidential team, immediate past president Jimmy Quinn highlights the invaluable skills of Armed Forces veterans and the helping hand they need to complete the second half of a career change. Read it here:


Bringing the house down: my life in demolition Wayne Bagnall, a leading authority in the field of demolition and asbestos safety, discusses the value of lifelong learning, meeting the Queen, and the importance of trust and optimism. Read the full story at

BO O K C LU B What can we hope to gain from reading a new OSH book? That it could supply something tangible, such as increased awareness and understanding? Provide the potential for reflection on preconceived views or practice? It can be a bonus when a book generates further discussion with colleagues or community, leading to a fresh look at the capability of OSH for horizon scanning and influencing change in work or wider society and environment. Our new book club aims to do just that.

Sustainability – a key idea for business and society This book comprises high-level strategic discourse, examining research, management models for sustainability, sustainable development and their effectiveness.


PODCAST What inspires you as an OSH practitioner? Episode 12 of IOSH magazine’s podcast series sees two members of the IOSH Future Leaders Steering Group explore the sources of their inspiration. They also discuss how to develop power skills and give our listeners some fresh ideas about different places from which we can all learn. Listen here: podcast/fl-inspiration

WEBIN AR How can digitalisation improve hybrid training and e-learning? In this webinar, sponsored by HandsHQ, our expert panel discusses how they have embraced hybrid training and seen advantages to their businesses. They look at the benefits of hybrid training, the systems companies are using, where the industry is likely to be going, and how you can incorporate hybrid training and e-learning. Watch on demand: handshq/digitalisation-training

VIDEO Shining the spotlight on OSH salaries More than 16,000 of you so far have watched this video giving insights into pay rates, qualifications and how OSH practitioners have been affected by the pandemic.

Don’t forget you can read this issue and previous editions at


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ISO 45003: Managing psychological health and safety at work Kate Field, global head of health, safety and well-being at the British Standards Institution, discusses the first global standard to give practical advice on managing psychosocial risk in the workplace

What is ISO 45003? ISO 45003, Occupational health and safety management — Psychological health and safety at work: managing psychosocial risks — guidelines, is designed to make the topic of psychological health and safety accessible to all. It gives simple, practical guidance on identifying where psychological health and safety risks arise in the workplace and what organizations of any size and type can do to eliminate or reduce them. By taking a proactive approach, organizations can prevent or minimize work related causes of stress, anxiety, burnout and depression.

Is it a prerequisite to have implemented ISO 45001? ISO 45001 and ISO 45003 work together, so if an organization has already implemented ISO 45001 it can use ISO 45003 to ensure psychological health and safety is being adequately addressed. If an organization hasn’t implemented ISO 45001 yet, or doesn’t plan to, ISO 45003 can still benefit organizations who wish to improve how they manage psychological health and safety as part of their health and safety management.

Why is ISO 45003 a separate standard as opposed to being integrated into ISO 45001, as ‘psychological health and safety’ is part of health and safety management? In an ideal world we wouldn’t need ISO 45003. However, as we know ‘health’ has been a long-overlooked part of health and safety management. And psychological health and safety is even further behind than other health risks. ISO 45003 recognizes

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this disparity and is focussed on closing the gap. In many areas, ISO 45003 goes further than ISO 45001, particularly regarding its focus on leadership culture, inclusivity, competency and awareness, rehabilitation and return to work, confidentiality and performance evaluation.

Do I need to be an expert or doctor in psychological health to use ISO 45003? Quite simply, no. It’s important to understand that psychological health and safety management needs the same skills and approaches as other health and safety risks. You don’t need to be a psychologist. As with any health and safety risk, you do need to be able to identify the hazards, assess the risks and know what organizational level changes are needed to manage the risk.

What are psychosocial risks? This term is used to describe potentially negative impacts on psychological health and safety in the workplace. It describes the factors within the workplace and the work we do that can negatively impact a worker’s psychological and physical health, leading to work-related stress, burnout, anxiety and depression. Psychosocial risks can arise through the way we work, including handling workloads, deadlines, isolation, and work/life balance. Contributing social factors include culture, working relationships, bullying, harassment, fairness, and career development. Other hazards include high noise levels, thermal discomfort, pain from musculoskeletal disorders, fear of violence and aggression, or even witnessing an incident.

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What can we do to identify psychosocial hazards in our workplace? It’s important to understand that ISO 45003 is about managing organizational risks, and not individual issues. Organizational hazards can be identified in several ways, for example: incident data, analyzing tasks, schedules and location, consulting with workers, worker surveys, exit interviews, standardized questionnaires, audits and data sources such as complaints, grievances, absence and attrition rates.

What are the most common psychosocial risks within the workplace? It depends on the type of organization and the sector, but there are common issues: workload, tight deadlines, too much work or too much pressure or responsibility. Other factors include a lack of managerial support, organizational changes at work, and lack of role clarity. However, what lies at the heart of psychosocial risk within an organization is the culture of that organization – and culture is driven by top management. Top management need to have high levels of emotional intelligence and a more servant style of leadership. This creates an authentic culture of trust and care.

Has the pandemic made things worse? It has increased many of the causes of work-related mental-ill health such as workload, changes at work and even violence. But it has also heightened other areas such as concerns about job security and career development. But we must remember that prior to the pandemic, work-related stress, depression and anxiety were the leading cause of ill health within the workplace – so this is not a new issue for workplaces, although the pandemic has focussed attention on it.

How do you assess and manage psychosocial risks? You approach it the same way as you would any type of health and safety risk. Once you identify the hazards, you identify who may be harmed, the likelihood and consequence. You can then use the same quantitative or qualitative methods that you use for other health and safety risks to identify the level of risk. As with other health and safety risks, the aim is then to eliminate that risk at an organizational level, and where it can’t be eliminated to put in other measures to reduce the risk as much as possible.

How does ISO 45003 contribute to workplace well-being?

guidance on what ‘the needs and expectations of a worker’ are. To understand what these are and develop a best practice approach to workplace well-being, organizations can use BSI Prioritizing People Model©.

Find out more about BSI’s Prioritizing People Model at Who are the right people in my organization to implement ISO 45003? This varies from organization to organization. As ISO 45003 is designed to support ISO 45001, for many organizations the health and safety team may lead implementation. For others, it may be HR or even the quality team. Whichever function ‘leads’, it will be essential for functional teams to work together, in particular health and safety and HR, as ISO 45003 will draw on expertise from both areas.

Can my organization be certified to ISO 45003? ISO 45003 is a guidance standard, not a requirements standard like ISO 45001. This means ISO 45003 cannot be awarded as an accredited certification. However, BSI offer a non-accredited certification globally. This is available for organizations that use ISO 45001 and organizations that use other health and safety management system approaches. The process for ISO 45003 certification will be the same as for any other form of BSI certification.

Is there any training in place to support implementing ISO 45003? Yes. BSI developed a one-day training course on ISO 45003, which is now available globally. It’s suitable for anyone involved in supporting an organization’s psychological health, safety and well-being and psychosocial risk management. This may include line managers, as well as health and safety, occupational health, human resources, compliance and risk and operational teams and managers.

Interested to know more? Visit to access more information, including on-demand webinars, podcasts and more.

ISO 45003 is not a standard on workplace well-being. It does however provide the first international definition on workplace well-being: fulfilment of the physical, mental, social and cognitive needs and expectations of a worker related to their work. An essential part of effective workplace well-being is managing health and safety risks – physical, mental and cognitive. ISO 45003 focuses on promoting well-being by managing psychosocial risk, however the standard does not provide

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A combination of low skills and awareness, winter storms and pared-down budgets are causing more deaths in forestry and arboriculture P50 | The 10 most common mistakes in writing a health and safety policy and how to avoid them P54 | We look ahead to the second Vision Zero summit in May and anticipate what themes and topics we can expect there P58


A closer view




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Winter storms and slashed budgets combined with a lack of skills and awareness are leading to needless deaths in forestry and arboriculture. WORDS STEVE SMETHURST 20 MINS



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etween December 2020 and February 2022, 11 deaths were recorded in the UK arboriculture and forestry sector, according to initial notifications from the Forest Industry Safety Accord (FISA, 2022). Falling trees or branches killed nine people; one death involved an overhead power line and another died using a log-splitting machine. FISA is a coalition of representatives from leading industry organisations and is determined to raise the standard of health, safety and welfare in the forestry industry. FISA chief executive Gillian Clark says winter storms that topple trees onto power lines are a major challenge. The agricultural sector is also affected, she says. ‘Farmers may be trying to clear trees when they have their spring turnout for livestock, for example. The last thing we need is for them to have a go at felling windblown trees.’ Compounding these hazards, budgets have been slashed in many industries and local authorities. ‘A lot of day-to-day maintenance just isn’t happening,’ Gillian says. Tina Morgan, chair of the IOSH Rural Industries Group, says part of the problem is that tree work is not exclusively carried by forestry operators and contractors. ‘Industries where these are not a business's main activities often have accidents as the work is not carried out frequently and is often thought to be “only a quick job”,’ she says. ‘Planning and proper preparation for this type of work is essential.’ She also highlights additional issues such as handarm vibration syndrome, asthma (from inhalation of wood dust), dermatitis (from chainsaw fuel and mechanical lubricants) and noise-induced hearing loss. HM inspector of health and safety Christopher Maher GradIOSH leads on arboriculture at the GB Health and Safety Executive (HSE). People often fail to appreciate that risk assessments must be site- and tree-specific, he says. ‘It can’t

be generic. Each tree and site presents different risks and could react differently in certain circumstances.’ The key is to avoid putting people at risk and put in place the right controls, as well as to record your thought process. ‘There’s often the temptation to view an incident as an unfortunate accident,' says Christopher. ‘But when you take a step back, if a chainsaw operator had been driving an excavator with a grapple saw when the tree fell, they’d most likely be alive. That’s why the planning is so important.’

When the wind blows Storms are one of many challenges faced in forestry and arboriculture. Max McLaughlan, head of land management (north district) at Forestry England, explains why. ‘Windblow is a normal part of any forest, but we saw things on a different scale towards the end of 2021. UK forests tend to be resilient to south-westerly winds. Storm Arwen caused 70mph northerly winds. The trees weren’t resilient to it.’ Although a relatively small proportion of forest was affected (around 2% to 4% in Scotland, Max says), the impact shouldn’t be underestimated. ‘Windblown timber is a different proposition to standing timber. When trees are on their side, you need bigger equipment to deal with that prospect safely. There is also usually quite a lot of chainsaw work, which affects safety,’ Max adds. Gillian highlights the dangers. ‘Winter storms leave a lot of windblown, snapped and hung-up trees. Many will be under tension and spring violently when released by cutting. Chainsaw operators may also be at risk of being crushed by the root plate.’ Winter storms brought down more than eight million trees in the UK (Marshall, 2022) and storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin in February 2022 caused more damage. ‘Working in these conditions must only be undertaken by people with


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a number of years’ experience and exposure to these situations,’ says Gillian. ‘We routinely get calls from people saying they’ve got this kind of tree and where can they find a training course. Effectively, they’re wanting to tackle the worst possible trees with virtually no experience.’ Clare James, head of health, safety and technical training at Forestry England, agrees: ‘One of the big factors is not using the correct equipment. Improvising with available kit, rather than using the right tool for the job, can get people into trouble. Another critical factor in remote locations is that there’s typically a lack of phone signal and challenges in getting emergency services to the scene.’

Curb complacency Tree work is not something that Graham Barton takes lightly. In part, this is because he can still recall vividly what happened when he was just 19. ‘I was 20 feet [six metres] up in the air reducing the height of a conifer hedge,’ he says. He was attached to the tree by a strop attached to his harness and secured around the main stem of the tree. His feet were either side of the stem on two lateral branches. ‘I had felled the top of the tree and was tidying up the felling cut with a small chainsaw when the branch supporting my left foot snapped. It all happened quickly, but I must have moved my left hand from the chainsaw handle. The saw passed across the inside of my left wrist gouging out flesh and severing five tendons. A twohour operation, 42 surface stitches and a bit of physio later, I was very lucky to have a fully functioning left hand,’ he says. Graham is now health, safety and compliance manager for UK Power Networks (UKPN), which maintains the electrical network in East Anglia and south-east England. ‘We use 11 principal contractors and a small group of directly


Ash dieback hazards Diseased or dead ash trees suffering from a fungal disease known as ash dieback are a hazard facing many councils. FISA’s Gillian Clark says: ‘These trees become brittle very quickly, making them extremely hazardous to climb and dismantle. Even when felling at ground level, the trunk or branches may snap unpredictably and “explode” with debris flying in all directions. We receive three to four calls about it a week, and typically the people we speak to have little knowledge about how to proceed.’ The HSE’s Christopher Maher adds: ‘If you have an ash with signs of decay, can you ever be sure that it’s safe to put a person under the tree? Anyone felling a tree should consider using an excavator with tree shears and/or grapple saws, or a harvester.’

employed tree cutters. Around 300 people are involved in tree work. We carry out riskbased maintenance, network resilience work, and advise on and assist customer requests in relation to trees,’ says Graham. UKPN arborists are trained in felling, processing, climbing and pruning. These are complemented by specialist qualifications developed by the electrical and arboricultural governing bodies. Compliance and knowledge of policies and procedures is reviewed in biannual safety audits, where auditors observe a team over the course of a day. ‘Apart from the usual slips, trips and falls, the biggest hazards are falls from height, contact with machinery (chainsaws), musculoskeletal injuries, personal

complacency and the formation of bad habits. We look for those things, but also praise innovation and best practice,’ says Graham. ‘We record findings honestly, and don’t look to embarrass or discipline people, but rather to coach and challenge teams to maintain safety standards.’

The hierarchy of risk control So what does suitably planned and riskassessed tree work look like? Clare says: ‘When it comes to Forestry England’s operational response, it’s all about going through the hierarchy of risk control. The risk control process is our way of assessing how to manage forestry works at every step. ‘Risk control starts with questions such as, does the tree actually need to be removed? If the tree is close to or across a road or trail, we’ll establish whether the work can be done mechanically. If mechanised removal is feasible, we’ll look at accessibility and what type of machinery is needed to get the job done. If the job can’t be done mechanically, we will decide on the best way to put an operator in safely. When it comes to storms and windblow, a lot of the safety procedures come down to operator competence. Here, we establish whether our own operators are confident and competent to do the work, or whether we need to contract it out. ‘We look at every aspect of the process. What sort of tree are we dealing with?


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FORESTRY Diseased ash trees become brittle and dangerous to climb

What is around it? What equipment will we need? Which way will we make the tree fall? Are there any trees it could fall into? Do we need to close roads or trails? Each tree is assessed like this, before it is felled, as well as the ground conditions and operating environment.’ Tina emphasises that before any forestry work, or even small-scale tree works, the person considering undertaking the task should ask themselves: Do I have the necessary skills to undertake the work safely? Do I have the correct equipment? Can I undertake the task safely? ‘If the answer to any of these questions is no, then the work should not even be considered. A robust risk assessment should always be carried out by someone who understands the hazards and risks,’ Tina adds. FISA is keen for mechanised felling (using tree shears/grapple saws) to become the norm in forest sites and with diseased ash trees because an operator in a protective cab is far safer than a person

R E S O URCES Noise in the workplace: Musculoskeletal disorders: IOSH training courses: FISA forestry safety guide: FISA 608:

with a chainsaw in hand. As Gillian notes, with the progression of mechanisation using suitable carrier vehicles and hydraulic cranes fitted with tree shears or grapple saws, the need for working at height is reduced. ‘We’re pleased that a growing number of contractors have this kind of equipment and we hope that continues. The more we can encourage the industry to mechanise the better,’ she says. Clare says Forestry England is also looking into mechanisation. ‘Tree shears tend to be used in roadside work. As with all mechanised work, there is still a risk: for example, chain shot, whereby if a chain is broken, bits of it could injure the operator or others in the vicinity. If these systems are to be used, we need to ensure the correct control measures are in place.’ The IOSH Rural Industries Group would always advocate eliminating the risk where possible, says Tina. ‘Anything that reduces risk will always be welcome in any workplace; however, it is only part of the story. There will inevitably be occasions where mechanised systems cannot be used. In most cases they rely on an operator and that operator still needs to be trained.’ OSH professionals in other industries will need to appreciate that forestry doesn't always enjoy the safety levels you would expect to see on a good construction site: ‘It is arguably still a bit behind,’ admits Gillian. ‘We have some excellent contractors and management companies, but across the board, we’re perhaps seeing that forestry isn’t quite at the same level as construction and it needs to get there.’ Graham adds: ‘Seek some professional help – the Arboricultural Association is a good starting point. And if you are using contractors, try to foster a positive health and safety culture with good reporting of near misses and hazards. Create an honest dialogue, praise innovation and be prepared to work together.’


A guide to working with contractors When engaging a contractor, your responsibility is to ensure they are competent. Information must be exchanged before work commences and the method of working should be agreed. Also, when works are being carried out adjacent to a highway, it is essential to implement necessary permissions and controls. Can the contractor demonstrate their competency? Have they undertaken similar work previously? Can they provide references? Do they have the appropriate equipment? Can they provide evidence of regular refresher training, especially if using equipment such as mobile-elevating work platforms? Are they members of a trade or professional body such as the Arboricultural Association or Forestry Contracting Association, or accreditation schemes such as SMAS or CHAS? If using chainsaws, can they justify why? Have their chainsaw operators attended an EFAW +F or an FAW +F course? Do they have a first aid kit that covers catastrophic bleeding? Do they have sufficient public (and if necessary) employers’ liability and professional indemnity insurance? Have they been subject to HSE notices? What is their RIDDOR history like? Have they been informed of hazards that could create or increase risk, such as roads, watercourses, cycle trails or overhead cables?


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10 pitfalls to avoid Scott Crichton CMIOSH, principal health and safety consultant at WorkNest, identifies common health and safety policy mistakes – and how to get it right next time.


well-considered health and safety policy is the starting point of any effective safety and health management system. Unfortunately, in our experience, these essential documents often miss the mark. They may be too long (or not long enough), missing important information, compiled incorrectly, or too generic to have any practical value. In some cases, they’re simply created as a boxticking exercise and left to sit on a shelf. Here are 10 areas where health and safety policies commonly fall short, and what you can do to address them.


No statement of intent

Every policy should start with a written statement of intent that sets out your general approach to managing workplace hazards and risks. It typically takes the form of a one-page document signed by the most senior person within

the organisation and can be supported by the chair of the board for extra weight. Often this document is either missing or not signed, which can lead to a lack of demonstrable commitment from senior individuals in the organisation. This in turn affects health and safety culture. Additionally, a statement of intent should cover not just safety but health: that includes stress, mental health and wellbeing. Your statement of intent must explain what you’re aiming to achieve by implementing your policy and providing performance indicators. The importance of setting clear and measurable objectives is often overlooked.


Doesn’t specify how health and safety is organised

The second part of a health and safety policy usually outlines the structure

of your organisation and sets out key health and safety roles and responsibilities. Without this, wires can easily be crossed, making it more likely that things won’t get done. You risk creating a culture of ‘it’s not my job’. One way to approach this is through an organisational chart that visually defines how health and safety is managed within your organisation. Responsibilities can then be defined in role/job descriptions to support this. You should capture who: Has overall responsibility for managing health and safety within your organisation Has day-to-day responsibility for effectively implementing your policy Your health and safety champions are – these people play a key role in the implementation and review of the policy. Health and safety is very much a team effort, and your policy should reflect this.


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Your health and safety policy should set out the arrangements for managing relevant health and safety risks. This section should form the largest part of your policy, with real thought given to the specific hazards present in your environment. However, this is typically where weaknesses and opportunities for development can be found, as employers sometimes miss very obvious and significant hazards. Arrangements typically cover areas such as asbestos, consultation, evacuating your premises, risk assessments and training. Make sure there is an index in place that lists all the hazards linked to your organisation and ensure that your policy covers all of the significant dangers that you, your employees and others face during the course of their work. This will also help to ensure that your policy isn’t generic – another common downfall. It may be more appropriate to have shorter policies that cover specific areas such as display screen equipment, first aid and working at height.




Doesn’t cover all the relevant hazard areas

No worker involvement

Organisations tend to produce health and safety policies with little, if any, input from their workforce. However, involving employees in the creation and review of policies is a great way to increase awareness of risk and encourage ownership. It’s a good idea to produce an accompanying employee handbook that translates the contents of your policy into the relevant information employees

need to work safely, and does so in an easy-to-read way. Not every organisation has a health and safety handbook; indeed, they are not required by law. But this can be a significant flaw, as it can mean the contents of your policy isn’t properly communicated. After all, it’s far more likely that employees will digest a jargon-free 20-page handbook than a 50-page policy.


No evidence the policy has been communicated and read

Employers often share policies with their workforce but have little way of knowing that employees have read them. You should communicate the policy and any subsequent amendments to staff, and ideally obtain documented evidence that this has been received, read and understood. Failing to do so can be a costly mistake – particularly in the event of an accident, where you may need to prove the employee was made aware of your health and safety rules and procedures. To get confirmation, use physical signatures or digital systems that send automatic notifications when a shared document is read, or simply make this a part of your induction process. This will strengthen your defence if an incident occurs.

Not easily accessible

Your policy should not be shrouded in mystery or covered in dust. It should be readily available to internal and external stakeholders within your organisation. It should also be easily accessible to employees, perhaps via the company intranet, to address any excuse for not having read it.


Too long

Some policies lack important information, but others are much longer than they need to be. While they should cover all bases, policies should be succinct and purposeful. It shouldn’t be a dense, daunting document that no individual has the time or inclination to read, or that people must wade through to get to the information they need.


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10 8

Not discussed with other occupiers/ organisations

Within your policy, you should consider how you will cooperate and coordinate with any other employers with whom you share premises. As well as being a legal requirement, failing to do so can lead to a lack of control – there could be an assumption on both sides that the other party is managing certain risks, when neither party is.


Not reviewed annually

A health and safety policy is a living, breathing document and should be reviewed often – at least annually. In many cases, organisations assume that producing a health and safety policy is a one-time task, when in reality it’s about effectively managing risk. Therefore, continual improvement is essential to keeping your policy alive. The policy should be referred to when incidents (accidents and near misses) happen and when there are significant changes to how your organisation operates.

Not written by the right people

Organisations can write health and safety policies themselves, and there’s no legal requirement to involve professionals. Indeed, the GB Health and Safety Executive says health and safety policies are best written by someone within the organisation, as they need to reflect the organisation’s values and beliefs, as well as a commitment to providing a safe and healthy environment. That said, producing these important documents can feel like a daunting task, particularly if you’re not the most safetysavvy, pushed for time, or don’t know where to start. So there are benefits to enlisting specialist experts to assist you. Your policy will benefit from your unrivalled knowledge of your own business and its risks, combined with their expert industry knowledge. This will ensure your policy is robust, fit for purpose and reflects best practice. What’s more, it’s the safest way to avoid the many common mistakes outlined in this article.

RESOURCE IOSH competency framework: competency-framework


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ZEROING IN From 11 to 13 May, the second Vision Zero summit will open its virtual doors for discussions on the greatest challenges in the world of work. Jeremy Waterfield takes a look at what to expect from the programme of events.


he world of workplace safety and health will be looking to build upon the progress made at the first Vision Zero summit, held in Finland three years ago, at this year’s summit in Japan. It promises to be a key milestone in the journey to turn a commitment to Vision Zero into realworld changes. Driven once again by the Global Coalition for Safety and Health at Work, this second summit will give a global platform to international experts in OSH, allowing them to share the latest prevention knowledge and strategies.

They will be joined by senior OSH operators from high-profile corporations, all presenting unique insights into how to apply a Vision Zero mindset. The middle day of the summit will see IOSH lead a programme of technical sessions, called ‘Future business leaders: achieving healthier performance and productivity’. This will address how Vision Zero prevention culture can be implemented in the business world. Anyone listening to IOSH head of strategic engagement Alan Stevens will learn how OSH has the power to not only keep workers healthy and safe, but also


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Alan Stevens, IOSH head of strategic engagement

Technology boosts delegate accessibility and promotes ‘anshin’ in the workplace That the event will be held online in

‘This will be a critical event in

no way diminishes the pride felt by Dr

securing the marriage of people

Toshihiro Fujita (pictured), vice-chair

and robotic technologies in a new

of the organising committee of the

workplace environment,’ he says. ‘New

second Vision Zero summit, to which

trends in OSH and in technology are

Japan plays host. Indeed, he says the

already coming together to write a new

online format means this summit will be

chapter of “collaborative safety”, where

even more global, making

humans and machines combine

it more accessible

to improve both productivity

to delegates and

and workers’ safety and

speakers from

security through the

more than 40

wider perspective

countries – who

placed on wellbeing

otherwise may

by Vision Zero.

not have been able to afford the budget or time to fly there. As director of the Osaka-based Institute of

‘We are indebted to Vision Zero for introducing this concept of wellbeing to the workplace. We don’t have a Japanese translation for “wellbeing”;

Global Safety Promotion, chairman

the nearest is “anshin”, which means

of the summit’s Session Chair

“lack of worry” or “peace of mind”.

Committee and a task group member

‘But we’ve learned how key the

of the Global Coalition for Safety and

Vision Zero mindset is to the promotion

Health at Work, Toshihiro sees the

of collaborative safety. We are at the

summit as a historic moment in the

dawn of a new, collaborative way of

global development of safety, health

working, a new world of work that will

and wellbeing.

be supported by new technology.’

create wealth, boost economies and help liberate populations. ‘This summit promises to be a turning point in the development of safety and health practice, with a focus placed on people’s wellbeing,’ says Alan. ‘The world is realising that good OSH practice can allow societies to flourish and has seen how it is helping countries through their passage of development,

particularly in Asia and Africa,’ he adds. ‘By working through the Global Coalition to unite bodies such as the International Labour Organization [ILO] and World Health Organization with governments, employers and OSH professionals, IOSH is taking on the challenge to reduce the negative impact of workplace accidents and illnesses, lessening the burden they put on individuals and emerging states. In freeing

up that burden, OSH is accelerating the progression of emerging economies and ensuring the future sustainability of societies.’ Four per cent of global GDP is wiped out by occupational accidents and diseases (ILO, 2015). With the world’s leaders now seeing the potential for OSH to reduce this waste – meaning that the savings can be reinvested in education, better services and a stronger infrastructure – we are starting to fully recognise what must be seen as a massive asset for any emerging economy. ‘For too long, the burden of inadequate safety and health has placed strains on countries’ social security systems, holding their economies back and blighting the lives of those directly affected by the financial insecurity that can result,’ says Alan. ‘In emerging, more informal economies, the burden of poor OSH is largely borne by the individual because there is no social security system, and this leads to debt and hardship. Young family members, especially girls, are then denied access to education, which holds the economy back further, causing more social deprivation.’ Better workplace safety, health and


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GLOBAL PER S PECT I V E wellbeing not only protects workers, but can also make economies run more smoothly and lead to better life chances. This will be a major focus of the summit and should provide inspiration for OSH professionals and their strategic partners. ‘Good OSH makes good business sense and the successful businesses of the future will be those that place safety, health and wellbeing at the heart of their operation,’ Alan concludes.

Collaborative approach For Dr Tommi Alanko, chair of Global Coalition Task Group Vision Zero at the Enterprise Level and a director of the Finland Institute of Occupational Health, a key driver behind this year’s Japan summit is ‘collaboration’. While the first summit was largely about finding common ground through the Vision Zero mindset, much has happened across the globe since then, particularly


Dr Tommi Alanko, chair of Global Coalition Task Group Vision Zero at the Enterprise Level

with the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact upon our lives and workplaces. Tommi says this has transformed the way we work together to address risks in the workplace, working within our businesses and organisations, and – especially now – alongside our (often global) supply chains. OSH professionals have also been increasingly collaborating across sectors during the pandemic. He cites the power of online technology in facilitating this collaboration, allowing greater sharing and learning – something that he sees continuing at the summit. ‘This summit will be all about bringing something new to share with partners in the Vision Zero mission, helping each other to find new ways to integrate occupational safety and health into businesses and organisations,’ says Tommi. ‘We’re all working together to reach a point where OSH becomes an integral part of the way companies do business; indeed, a point where safety is embraced as the responsibility of the whole business, not just its health and safety department. ‘In my experience, where OSH is in good shape, the company or organisation is also likely to be in good shape.’ The COVID-19 pandemic has put safety and health in society – and not least workplace safety and health – firmly in the spotlight and encouraged greater engagement with our profession. The world of work is looking to safety and health professionals like never before. Whether it’s concerns about the spread of infectious diseases, issues of homeworking, mental health or the challenge to gain and retain talented staff, employers and businesses want answers. The Japan 2022 Vision

Driving a vision into real action The ILO has estimated that 2.78 million workers around the world die from occupational accidents and diseases every year, while 374 million workers suffer from non-fatal occupational accidents (ILO, 2020). This toll gave fresh resolve to calls to establish a global prevention culture. The game-changing Vision Zero commitment gave birth to the Global Coalition for Safety and Health at Work. The Global Coalition established the Vision Zero summits, with the first staged in Helsinki, Finland. The success of the summit saw the Coalition establish a family of six task groups aligned to priority areas, one of which is Vision Zero at the Enterprise Level, which includes IOSH and is focused on implementing Vision Zero thinking and best practice across a range of business enterprises.

Zero summit might be virtual, but it still presents a perfect stage for all those involved in workplace safety, health and wellbeing. They will come together to share, listen, inspire, be inspired and grasp this unique opportunity to make people’s lives better. To view the references for this article, go to vision-zero-japan


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A new IOSH model details how to support social sustainability P64 | James Pretty on his journey to becoming a health and safety instructor P68 | Future Leader Saravanakumar Natarajan on becoming one of IOSH’s youngest Chartered Members P70 | Back to basics: rehabilitation and returning to work P72 | Talking shop: how to bring mental health into the open P74






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CHAMPIONING PEOPLE A model approach, developed by IOSH, details the journey OSH professionals can take to support their business in social sustainability. WORDS MARCUS BOOCOCK


ost people are aware of what it takes to make an organisation sustainable in terms of the environment, but the concept of social sustainability is becoming increasingly important too. Socially sustainable organisations are those that prioritise the adoption of a person-centred approach to everything they do, treating employees as an asset, and creating the conditions to promote decent work where human capital underpins corporate performance and sustainability. There can be little doubt that the role of OSH professionals and the goals of social sustainability are complementary, as both are concerned with ensuring people are healthy, safe and well. ‘OSH professionals play a crucial role in helping organisations to create reporting and learning cultures in which prevention lessons are learned, and they are best-placed to work across the business to support social sustainable practices and OSH performance evaluation and reporting,’ says Ruth Wilkinson, IOSH head of health and safety. In fact, many existing OSH activities support the drive toward social sustainability, so OSH


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professionals should not feel intimidated by contributing to reporting instruments, supporting the preparation of non-financial disclosures, or considering the social impacts of business activities. So says Dr Chris Davis, IOSH research programme lead and author of the upcoming IOSH publication, Wave generation: a model approach to socially sustainable safety and health as part of its Catch the Wave infinitive. ‘OSH professionals may be wondering where to start when it comes to this area,’ Chris says. ‘They are being asked to consider ISO 45001 and ISO 45003, as well as working towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the principles of the International Corporate Governance Network. ‘However, when you look at the core principles of OSH that those in the profession are familiar with – in essence, ensuring all workers are safe, healthy and well – they are already contributing to social sustainability.’

A model approach The upcoming publication introduces a new model approach. It consolidates existing knowledge on OSH and social sustainability, and takes as its conceptual starting point the OSH management system structure outlined in the ISO 45001 international standard. The model contains five elements that reflect the growth to maturity of OSH, from a primarily preventive function to one that is far more outward-looking, future-focused and supports a social sustainability agenda (see The elements of IOSH’s model approach to social sustainability, right). There is also a sixth element, reflecting that OSH is often influenced by broader factors such as organisational culture, communication, and equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). This falls outside of the main model but is shown as an overarching lens that always impacts on the main model. Chris says this reflects the journey of OSH professionals through their careers, reflecting that everyone will be at different


The elements of IOSH’s model approach to social sustainability


People: it is crucial that organisations ensure their people are fit, healthy and well, and well-equipped and competent enough to undertake their roles, as well as being engaged and satisfied.


Work and environment: there is a clear opportunity for OSH professionals not only to provide safe working conditions, a safe physical and psychosocial environment and appropriate equipment, but also to create an environment in which workers can find purpose, autonomy and job satisfaction.


System and integration: developing the capacity to monitor, review, report on and learn from the dynamic relationship between people and work is essential. Not only is this beneficial to OSH, but the existence of a systematic approach to OSH will also provide reassurance – particularly when independently reviewed or certified – to those interested in the long-term stability of an organisation.


Organisation: it is important to have a relationship between OSH and other functions. Given that the most valuable information related to OSH performance is thought to come from other

functions or external sources, cross-functional collaboration and communication streams could be hugely beneficial.


External: there is a growing expectation within reporting instruments for organisations to consider their engagement with – and, of course, impact upon – stakeholder groups. As such, given the universal nature of its fundamental principles, OSH could well be seen as being a valuable vehicle through which organisations are able to engage externally.

OVERARCHING FACTORS It is important for practitioners to understand how overarching factors – culture, communication, approach to EDI and so on – influence everything that happens within an organisation. By doing so, it may provide insight that explains the success or failure of an OSH management system.


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stages. ‘As you move through the model, it reflects that maturity journey – from core principles that OSH professionals use all the time, to new areas where they may have less experience,’ he says. ‘So OSH professionals will be able to look at the new model and consider what they are already doing and where they need to go next. The further through the model you go, the more broadly you are operating – for example, striking up relationships with different functions within the business and stakeholder groups. ‘It is important to note that the model is iterative – in other words, it isn’t a single journey at the end of which one reaches a finish line. In fact, as knowledge of socially sustainable OSH develops and interconnections become clearer, opportunities to evolve those core elements are likely to emerge.’

Overnight change Chris says the COVID-19 pandemic meant that many OSH professionals had to adapt their role practically overnight as businesses began to turn to them for support in areas they weren’t familiar with. At the same time, businesses increasingly began to recognise how OSH is crucial if they are to be successful. Ruth says: ‘Organisations cannot be sustainable without protecting the safety, health and wellbeing of their most vital resource: workers. Consequently, companies driven by a human-centred purpose that embraces the interplay of social sustainability, thoughtful human capital management and a comprehensive set of employee safety, health and wellbeing practices – all critical components of a robust human capital management strategy

AN ORGANISATION CAN’T HAVE A SUCCESSFUL SUSTAINABILITY STRATEGY WITHOUT A STRONG HEALTH AND SAFETY CULTURE – are more capable of producing lasting value, profit and sustainable workforces.’ Businesses, and the OSH professionals who support them, are at different stages of the journey towards social sustainability. Lesley Kavanagh, senior director for partner responsibility at Nike, is in no doubt about the importance of OSH in creating a socially sustainable business. ‘I have dedicated 30 years of my career to advancing sustainability, including health and safety strategies, within manufacturing environments,’ she says.

‘I believe all people have a fundamental right to the protection of life and health in the workplace. As OSH professionals, we can help organisations have the right processes, systems, resources and cultures in place to create safer and healthier working environments for employees and people working across the value chain. This can have a ripple effect into the communities in which companies operate. ‘Not only is putting people first the right thing to do, but it is critical to the success of any business. In addition to mitigating risks, it allows the company to become an employer of choice, attracting and retaining the best talent. This is a virtuous circle leading to a more engaged workforce that can be a source of innovation and improved productivity. ‘An organisation can’t have a successful sustainability strategy without a strong health and safety culture. As OSH professionals, we can continue to influence and lead by example, to help ensure health and safety is a key component of all sustainability strategies.’ To view the references, go to social-sustainability-model


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Recruit skilled and dedicated safety and health practitioners from assistant to director level to fill any vacancy, or take the next step in your own career by posting your CV or browsing our unrivalled list of vacancies.

The official careers site of IOSH

L @ioshjobs IOSH MAGAZINE 67

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LIVING THE DREAM James Pretty CMIOSH explains his journey from equipment operator to health and safety instructor, via the UK, Australia, Oman and Brunei. INTERVIEW MATT LAMY


ames Pretty is a senior health, safety and environment (HSE) instructor and consultant who has had a hand in national-level OSH projects. But less than 15 years ago, James was operating plant equipment with only the occasional toe-dip into health and safety inspections. ‘It’s such a shame that health and safety isn’t offered more regularly as a career path at school and colleges because, if I could go back to the 16-year-old me, I would say “health and safety” to him,’ says James. ‘I spent a couple of years in Australia, where I did some plant machinery instruction. When I came back to the UK, a friend said he had an instructor role available in Oman. The problem was, I didn’t have an instructor qualification. I gambled the last £1000 in my bank account, took the course and, at the end of the two weeks, passed,’ he says. ‘I started in Oman in 2013 with lifting equipment instruction but, after eight months, my boss asked if I wanted to do my own further studies so I could start being a full HSE instructor. My career skyrocketed from there. I went from lifting instructor with no experience to in-country value [ICV] programme manager in three and a half years.’

National influence As well as his ICV role, James was also asked to join an Omani Skills Council. ‘It was the first very high-level role I’ve had and it involved developing a national occupational standard and an accompanying apprenticeship for lifting operations. To get more Omanis into jobs, the government wanted a programme for HSE officers – taking them from graduate to HSE officer in two years. They’d come to the programme I was running and do IOSH Managing Safely to start with, then OSH qualifications, then a work placement for six months. If that all worked out, they would go into the second year and do their NVQ Level 5 diploma. Those experiences – the ICV and the Skills Council – helped me for the next stage of my career.’ 68 MAY/JUNE 2022 | IOSHMAGAZINE.COM

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The value of mentoring


James is a keen proponent of mentorship and has signed up as an IOSH mentor. ‘Everyone remembers their favourite coach or mentor,’ James says. ‘Not because they were necessarily the smartest person they’d met, but because they showed the most faith in them. Even now, I know that one of my old bosses, if I phoned him up, would drop everything to help if I needed it. That kind of support is invaluable.’ James’s mentoring experience meets a number of competencies within the IOSH competency framework, which is the Institution’s first step towards guiding members’ skills and career development. For example, this article relates well to IOSH’s competencies in coaching and mentoring, advocating for safety and inspiring people, and innovation and creativity.

That was to head east in May 2019 to Brunei, where he took the role of senior HSE instructor and consultant for Megamas Training Company, looking after the firm’s IOSH and NEBOSH training programmes. At Megamas, James has trained some of the Brunei Safety, Health and Environment National Authority’s (SHENA’s) own staff, and his skills have been used in a specialised role. ‘I’m fortunate to know the chief inspector here. He’d been emailing me draft guidance and I’d been replying with my opinions. He happened to be in our office one day and asked me if I wanted to play a more active role. I ended up joining the PPE task force within SHENA’s Industrial Health, Safety and

Environment Group (iHSEg). ‘iHSEg is a volunteer task force and we’re tasked with trying to develop and build guidance and standards. Brunei has had health and safety laws for 13 years but many people don’t even know they exist, let alone what they say.’

Not invincible With experience around the globe, James knows that the guidance needed can differ from country to country, and from culture to culture. ‘In Australia, the struggle is what I call “invincibility syndrome”. The Aussies are a tough bunch, but some think they are utterly invincible until they get hurt, and then it comes as quite a shock. ‘Even from Oman to Brunei, there are big differences in the way some things happen. So, adaptability and flexibility is a big weapon in the trainer or health and safety professional’s armoury.’ Despite the exciting opportunities he has enjoyed with different national regulators and official bodies, James’s primary source of job satisfaction is still instructing. ‘Coaching people is the most enjoyable thing, especially at the moment because many of the Bruneian students we get in have been unemployed for some time and they’re desperate to work. In the large families here in south-east Asia, they need to be breadwinners. ‘When they’ve spent two weeks with me, even before they do their exams, I can see they have become different people. When they arrive, they don’t understand why we do a lot of the things we do. But as you explain the reasoning, you can see they have these lightbulb moments. ‘It’s brilliant when people come to see you months later, and not only can they talk to you about the subject, they can be your peer. I’ve got many ex-students who are now professionals in their own right, some of them senior managers in health and safety – even Chartered Members. It’s fantastic when they say that you were the spark that ignited their career.’


Becoming Chartered 1

Don’t think you know it all


Approach people who have done it before and get their advice


If you don’t achieve it straight away, take a step back, accept the feedback and try again. IOSH competency framework: competency-framework IOSH mentoring scheme:

Top teaching techniques Learn to say the same thing in seven different ways Engage all the time – keep your students in the challenge zone Always ask your students questions Don’t let the same people speak constantly Use a range of approaches and resources – group exercises, videos, case studies Focus on as much real-life content as possible Promote the approach that working together is vital.


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Q &A

SARAVANAKUMAR NATARAJAN How did you get into the health and safety profession? During undergraduate studies, my ambition was to join the armed forces but personal reasons meant I was unable to. Instead, I started to focus on health and safety. The reason for my interest in both these careers is similar: to protect people and have the utmost job satisfaction in the day-to-day care of others.

You were in India’s National Cadet Corps – how did that help your career? I got basic military training during my undergraduate studies, and I held the rank of company sergeant major. That experience was a turning point: it taught me time management, how to take accountability for tasks, how to take the first step towards new initiatives, and the importance of being honest and motivated even in difficult situations. Most importantly, it taught me to be service-minded.

Tell us about your job. What are your day-to-day activities? Recently, I joined as a safety supervisor with M.AI Barghash Co, an engineering, procurement and construction company operating in large-scale water, oil and gas pipelines and other onshore works in Saudi Arabia. I’m involved in all health,

After three years with the Indian Army National Cadet Corps while at university, Saravanakumar Natarajan CMIOSH has used a military-like focus in his OSH career to become one of IOSH’s youngest Chartered Members. INTERVIEW MATT LAMY

safety and environment (HSE) activities, from developing safety programmes to verifying implementation at project level. This includes conducting planned and unplanned HSE inspections and audits, verifying emergency preparedness, delivering safety training, communicating HSE requirements to various departments, and managing environmental demands. Previously, I worked with Global Tech Park in India, handling the HSE side of construction projects, including preparation and implementation policy, manuals and safety requirements. I also had the opportunity to develop, execute and monitor the entire HSE system.

Tell us about health and safety in India and now Saudi Arabia. In India, around 80% of the population works in unorganised sectors and more than half of the people work in agriculture,


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so getting health and safety awareness to rural communities is challenging. However, we can expect good health and safety development in India as it has its own standards, codes and laws, an increasing literacy rate – currently 75% (2022) – and the highest youth population. Saudi Arabia has the world’s thirdlargest migrant population (Migrants and Refugees, 2020) and some construction works there are temporary in nature. So, the big challenge for HSE professionals here is adapting to people with different backgrounds, cultures and languages. However, I feel that both Saudi and India are heading in the right direction.


When did you join IOSH’s Future Leaders Community? I joined in March 2020 to connect with 7000 other Future Leaders and to sharpen my knowledge. IOSH membership provides great value for me with access to live webinars, the competency framework, IOSH magazine and the Career Hub.

You became the 10th-youngest Chartered Member of IOSH – why were you keen to achieve this so early? When I started my career, I encountered many senior HSE professionals who were Chartered Members of IOSH and they seemed very competent. I felt becoming a Chartered Member would be helpful for me in terms of being a globally recognised health and safety professional.

What do you find most rewarding – and challenging – about the profession? Job satisfaction is the greatest reward. Directly and indirectly, the HSE profession is the major reason why so many people can return home safely to their families each day. Probably the biggest challenge is that, as safety professionals, alongside technical knowledge we also need to understand psychology and legal requirements, and have communication skills.

How will you inspire other young HSE professionals? I recently registered as an IOSH mentor, although even before that I advised and guided many people to achieve their membership grades. I’ve also suggested many young people in my circle should look into HSE as a profession. I have more than 7000 followers on LinkedIn, and I make sure I’m available to provide support.

Where do you see your current role taking you?


I hope to learn many new things in my new industry in Saudi Arabia. Wherever I go afterwards, my ambition is to take on large responsibilities where I can ensure the health and safety of the people around me, support my team and help the success of others. I live by the Indian Army motto: ‘Service before self.’


Achieving IOSH Chartered Membership Check the IOSH qualifications page and start with the right accredited qualifications. Check memoranda of understanding between IOSH and other organisations. Try to learn at least one new thing every day. Go through back issues of IOSH magazine and attend CPD events for updates. Don’t look at shortcuts to get a qualification or a membership. The learning process is the thing that makes you a professional. Don’t underestimate CPD and initial professional development – understand their purpose and use them wisely.

For fellow Future Leaders: Update yourself with developing trends and don’t miss learning opportunities from workplace experience. Develop your professional and personal network, using platforms such as IOSH Future Leaders. Learn new languages to communicate effectively with people from different backgrounds. Inspire others by guiding them in the right direction. Remember: when we are no longer able to change the situation, we are challenged to change ourselves – learn to be the best, and make a positive impact on people around you!

To view the references for this article, go to Saravanakumar-Natarajan


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REHABILITATION AND RETURNING TO WORK In the latest of our series exploring core OSH topics and your role in ensuring risks are well managed, we focus on rehabilitation and the journey back to work.


Why put a return-to-work process in place?

After the past two years – where employees have been furloughed or advised to work from home – the importance of an effective return-towork system and process has never been more valuable. Even in pre-pandemic times, people could be away from work for many reasons. Because of this, organisations should have processes in place to support workers to return to work as soon as they are able. At its simplest, OSH aims to prevent workers getting injured or made ill because of work. But it also has a vital role to play in supporting organisations and their staff in rehabilitation and return-to-work processes.



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The six-step approach

IOSH describes six steps for organisations to follow when managing workplace sickness absence. Record sickness absence Keep in contact Plan and implement workplace controls or adjustment Make use of specialist advice or treatment Agree a return-to-work plan Coordinate the return to work.

Further detail and advice for supervisors and managers on the practicalities of each of these six steps can be found in the IOSH Managing Occupational Health and Wellbeing course. OSH professionals can be of particular support to organisations in step 3, by offering advice that helps to initiate workplace controls or adjustments.

Organisations may find there is a need to contract out these services. However, it’s worth understanding that such investments could result in business benefits. For example, a forklift truck organisation that helped its experienced workers return to work earlier by investing in contracted physiotherapy services avoided staff absenteeism, the cost of which would have been four times greater than the services paid for.



Specialist support

In addition to OSH professionals, there are also specialists who can assist an organisation with its rehabilitation and return-towork processes.



Ergonomists: applying human sciences such as anatomy and physiology to the work environment Occupational health (OH) advisers: qualified in OH nursing or community public health Occupational hygienists: competent in anticipating, recognising, evaluating and advising on the control of chemical, biological or physical health hazards Occupational physicians: medical doctors specialising in OH Occupational therapists: specialists in physiotherapy or psychotherapy.

IOSH return-towork resources

IOSH has sponsored research into rehabilitation and the return to work. Our research into returning to work after cancer and common mental health disorders looks at the barriers and facilitators from different group perspectives.

MORE IN FO? For more on returning to work, go to To view the article’s references, go to workplace-sickness

Returning to work after cancer As many as 63,000 people with cancer in the UK today want to work but are unable to do so because they do not have the right support. It is also estimated that by 2030, an extra 130,000 people with cancer could return to work after treatment, with the right support (Healthy Working Lives, 2020). This research helps organisations provide that support.

Returning after common mental health disorders Mental disorders such as anxiety, stress and depression are among the leading causes of disability worldwide and have a major impact on productivity and sickness absence. This research calls on employers to take greater account of a person’s needs when planning their return to work.

IOSH Managing Occupational Health and Wellbeing course With 69% of line managers untrained in how to recognise poor mental health in their employees, this course is available as an online programme of study that provides practical advice and tools for managers to help create a healthy and productive place of work.

Research on rehabilitation and return to work The International Social Security Association (ISSA) estimates that for every dollar invested on work reintegration and rehabilitation, employers realise an average return of more than three times the initial investment (ISSA, 2017).


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Consultant and tutor, The Bradley Group

Regional health and safety manager (North West),

Although we are moving in a positive direction, there still appears to be greater acceptance of physical illnesses. This could be down to our experience: we understand how the flu or a sickness bug makes us feel, but does everyone understand how mental illness feels? It isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer; illness can affect people differently on different days. This can make it difficult for organisations to understand, manage and accept. This breeds stigma and could affect somebody calling in absent with a mental illness. This will change in time. Meanwhile, education, awareness and kindness may help organisations towards acceptance and progression.

Unite Students

Depression, among other mental health issues, is starting to be recognised by society as a serious illness, but there’s still a long way to go. If you call in absent from work there’s a worry of being ‘caught’ outside the house. What’s often misunderstood is that going outside can greatly contribute to recovery. We need to have better conversations to enable leaders to understand the importance of mental wellbeing. Empathy and understanding are skills that need to be developed; they can’t just be switched on. A wellbeing programme is a good start, and there should be a continuous plan to improve it.




Co-founder and principal

Absent workers often say they’re physically ill even if they are having mental health issues. Four industry leaders offer their thoughts.

consultant at Ravensdale Health, Safety & Wellbeing

Poor mental health isn’t as obvious as physical illness. Few are prepared to talk openly about it, and perceived views of employees and employers can fuel the taboo. Employers need to measure output in ways other than attendance. Through flexible working patterns and locations, employees can contribute far more than is expected or demanded. By understanding factors affecting wellbeing, building protective measures in the workplace and reducing risks, employers can improve staff mental wellbeing. Signposting to resources supporting mental health and wellbeing also helps – but all employees must be able to see the benefit.


Huge thanks to our four experts for contributing their valued opinions to Talking Shop over the past 12 months

What are your organisations doing to ensure the tide is turning on mental health awareness and education? Let us know.

SAMANTHA MEPHAM CMIOSH Partner, health and safety, Rider Levett Bucknall

It is estimated that one in four UK adults suffer from mental illness each year (Mind, 2020), so logically we should get more calls about it. Why don’t we? Self-stigma is a factor. As someone with experience of mental ill health, I recognise there can be inherent shame, which is irrational as most people are supportive. Lack of understanding can mean people aren’t comfortable talking to those with mental illness. Employers must build environments where people are comfortable talking about mental illness. People should also know what to say if, or when, that call comes in.

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