There is no doubt that regulation has its place in stating society’s minimum expectations and in providing a clear framework against which all organisations can measure themselves. There must also be a punitive system to address dutyholders who fall short of these standards. However, with less prescriptive regulation and a drive – in the UK at least – to reduce the regulatory burden on business, we should all do more to define good OSH performance and promote it around the world.
There are many examples of good business practice and most organisations are happy to share their successes. This responsible approach will build confidence that we can move towards self-regulation. But to create a sustainable shift and ensure the trust of all those who have an interest in business performance in this area: the public, regulators and investors; we need to do more.
Credibility would be bolstered through a requirement for public reporting against a set of defined OSH metrics
There are three key requirements to enable and engender a self-regulatory environment:
1. Building capability – those who have responsibility for implementing an OSH agenda must be equipped with the right skills, knowledge and experience. Effective OSH work requires more than technical capability – practitioners need the ab)ility to engage and influence, understand strategy and planning, and appreciate sustainable business practice. IOSH Blueprint, our newly-named competency framework (see page 12 will provide the mechanism to measure and develop these abilities.
2. Embedding culture – organisations that treat safety and health as material issues and have clear, publicly-reported OSH visions, are best positioned for a self-regulatory environment. If these priorities are integrated into business strategies and processes, they are more likely to have a positive impact on an organisation’s OSH performance.
3. Assuring credibility – there is no requirement to publish your OSH activities or performance. You may be legally obliged to report accidents to the regulator but your ambitions, activities and progress can remain confidential. This promotes inconsistency across organisations and a lack of transparency. Credibility would be bolstered by a requirement for public reporting against a set of defined OSH metrics to ensure parity, consistency and aid benchmarking between businesses. The public, regulator and investor can make informed judgements and hold businesses accountable; and the organisation benefits from a level playing field where it can be proud to report its activities and seek commercial differentiation. This premise is supported by the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability (www.centershs.org), of which IOSH is a founding member.
I believe we still have much to do to assure the public, regulators and investors that we are ready to succeed in regulating ourselves. But we do have a rich source of guidance and materials to build this confidence and ability.