IOSH’s new Pioneers of Progress project

Karen McDonnell, past president, IOSH

Next year marks IOSH’s 75th anniversary. From humble beginnings as the Institution of Industrial Safety Officers, our professional body has grown to the point where it now has more than 47,000 members in 130 countries.

In that time, IOSH members and other practitioners in our great profession have been at the forefront of progressive change in the workplace.

Work-related accident and illness rates are still too high but have fallen where our profession and legislation, such as the UK’s Health and Safety at Work Act, have raised the consciousness of safety and health issues among employers and workers.

Yet we know that provisions for occupational safety and health vary widely, and recognition for our role in the workplace and wider society remains lacking.

In some sections of the media, misguided perceptions have led to “health and safety” meaning something else. According to some, it means over-zealous officials banning activities. It’s frustrating to see when we know what real safety and health management is all about.

We are an enabling profession. We make things happen. And we have had to be agile to keep ahead of work trends and changes in practice.

OSH professionals have had to adapt to tackle a host of workplace developments, from political and cultural shifts to advances in technology. It is now rare to find the safety and health professional focusing purely on those two elements of their title.

OSH professionals  have had to adapt to tackle a host of workplace developments, from political and cultural shifts to advances  in technology

Job descriptions will reflect multiple disciplines, with phrases such as SHEQ, QUENSH and SHEQ FM, referring to safety, health, environment, quality and facilities management jobs.

Combined with organisations’ reluctance to invest in safety and health provision, simply because they are unsure about how to provide appropriate resource for their employees, the clarity and purpose of the OSH practitioner’s role can become blurred.

Now, with recognised qualifications, more skills and responsibility in the workplace under our belt, it is even more important that we champion the core function of OSH to create a safe, healthy and productive work environment.

This is why IOSH is launching its Pioneers of Progress project this month – a chance to right some wrongs and tell the story of our great profession, its past, present and how we think we will shape safer, healthier workplaces in future.

As we celebrate IOSH’s 75th birthday, we want this to be an opportunity for you, me and our OSH colleagues to tell our story and to showcase the vital role we play in the world of work.

This is your chance to enthuse fellow practitioners and renew the profession. Pioneers of Progress is seeking to project the collective voice of safety and health professionals, not only to help demonstrate the progress that has been made since IOSH was established, but raise our public profile and attract more people into a profession that has the potential to significantly shape the world of work, now and in the future.

Watch this space!


Karen McDonnell is past president of IOSH.

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