From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
I was invited recently to meet representatives of a global company with a household name. The business was working on its sustainability strategy and, under Chatham House rules, bravely sought the opinion of around 20 external stakeholders including IOSH.
The opening statements made by the organisation were encouraging. Its investors and board had formulated a mechanism to measure return on capital for non-financial indicators, and were focusing particularly on gains from risk management and governance.
The company was confident that risk mitigation and business continuity measures will have a value equal to 8%-plus annual growth in its business between 2013 and 2017. In a volatile global market -- economically and environmentally -- it understood that having clear and material sustainable goals were imperative to ensure its ability to adapt and survive.
It had consulted broadly to identify its significant issues, which fell into three broad categories: environmental impact; innovation, research and development; and labour and human rights (including in its supply chain).
There was much debate about the relative status of these issues but the outcome was unanimous and heartening: environmental and occupational safety and health (OSH) management were core, both as a value proposition and an enabler to achieve innovation and drive research and development.
This is a welcome shift in thinking; OSH is a priority for most larger organisations but is rarely viewed as an area to inspire new ideas, product development and commercial growth.
We are seeing green shoots of a flourishing understanding among board members of the benefits of non-financial indicators. A clear link is emerging between sustainability -- with an increasing focus on OSH -- and business growth. As a profession we have a responsibility to help make these connections.
IOSH is a founding member of the international Center for Safety and Health Sustainability (CSHS), which aims to stengthen the voices of OSH professionals in 70 countries in shaping sustainability policies. The CSHS recently published a white paper, The Accounting Revolution and the New Sustainability: implications for the occupational safety and health professional.
In the paper, the CSHS makes a set of recommendations for OSH professionals to prepare for this shift; I urge you to read them at www.centershs.org/ourwork.php.
Not recognising the opportunities that sustainability brings will leave OSH professionals at risk of being left behind in reactive, compliance-focused roles. OSH is a material issue for all organisations now. Ensuring you protect the health, safety, welfare and wellbeing of individuals in the workplace is a value that has proven to motivate workforces, enhance business reputation and reduce business risk.
As it becomes more integral to the sustainability agenda in business, OSH will be seen increasingly as a source of new ideas to promote innovation and growth.
But the consultation and briefing events the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) hosted in January and February suggest the debate has moved on at last. Invited audiences around the UK heard about the new strategy, Helping Great Britain work well, and those at the London meeting, opened by Justin Tomlinson, the minister responsible for safety and health, could be forgiven for wondering where all the political animus against regulation had gone.
Businesses aren’t moral entities. They may be staffed by people who do the right thing more often than not, but that’s because they reflect the make-up of the general population.Companies exist to turn a profit and their executive directors in particular are appointed with the primary duty to generate shareholder value.
Other months may be less busy, but the spurs that propel such topics into the public realm guarantee a continued supply.One of these is the interface between technological innovation and the vagaries of human nature; people acquire new devices and find improbable ways to use them. Hence the calls for tighter restrictions on domestic use of drones and, more curious still, laser pointers. (I can’t have been the only one whose belief in the goodness of humanity suffered a knock at the news there were 1,440 reports by pilots in 2014 of people shining lasers into plane cockpits.)
With a possible change in our relationship with Europe in the offing, would leaving the bloc make the UK safety and health landscape look any different and would we remain as influential among the remaining members?Our robust Health and Safety at Work Act has had a profound impact on EU law. The act’s “so far as reasonably practicable” qualifying phrase was included in the 1989 Framework Directive on Safety and Health at Work (not without dissent), which became a strong foundation of EU safety and health regulation.
Teams of researchers set about trying to lift the lid on a world of work which you, as a reader of this publication, are very much a part of.The book provides a fresh and current perspective on OSH, recognising it has a rich and colourful history that has increasingly been shaped by public perception. For me, the research enabled us to explore how the OSH professional can confidently respond to these changing needs to shape the future. Adaptability, it seems, is key.
We will bring you the stories behind the stories. That means talking to the regulators when they take employers to court, and finding the root failings that others can learn from.This willingness to dig deeper carries through into in our first sample feature – there are plenty more to come but we and IOSH want to keep some surprises for the first issue of the print magazine, available in hard copy and online flipping PDF version at the beginning of February.
Safety interventions should be practicable and cost-effective, but too much of an imbalance towards safety does not make economic sense for employers, argues Geoff Vaughan, who suggests ‘gross disproportion’ provides a practical limit.
The five-year anniversary of ISO 45001: 2018, the first truly international OSH management system standard, is an ideal opportunity to reflect on its impact and plan for a climate-affected future, writes Richard Jones CFIOSH.
Employees are often under pressure go to ‘over and above’ their normal working hours, but could businesses be doing themselves harm by expecting staff to work long hours? OSH content developer Ryan Exley says it’s time for a rethink