The sustainability side of OSH in 2017

Executive director - policy, IOSH

The January 2017 of IOSH Magazine features an extract from our recently published book, Health and Safety in a Changing World, which brings together the far-reaching five-year programme of research commissioned by IOSH.

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.

The book extract’s focus is on “workarounds” and how we as a profession can learn to become more flexible in incorporating new ideas offered by the modern-day worker.

Elsewhere, the findings were of a profession trying to manage transient and disparate workforces as well as some of the challenges the profession can face in supporting smaller businesses – proportionality has been a feature of the back end of 2016.

We have become accustomed to economic uncertainty, but Brexit, the US election and polls ahead of European elections in 2017 have brought political uncertainty to the fore in the minds of many, not least employers and investors.

We can look ahead to a year that will be focused on improving corporate governance

We can look ahead to a year, however, that will be focused on improving corporate governance – we are hopeful that ISO 45001 will finally be launched and there is an ever-increasing focus on transparency, reporting and modern slavery. 

More specifically for OSH professionals, there will be significant developments in thinking and practice on measuring OSH as part of an organisation’s sustainability agenda: the Global Reporting Initiative will scope the OSH elements of its new standards and there will be a workshop launching the results of new Harvard Law School research on use of human capital (including safety and health) metrics. 

I also look forward to the exciting advances in managing occupational health – the construction sector in the UK will continue to drive forward its positive agenda and the global campaigns for healthy work will collectively advance policy and practice. 

Governments too increasingly appreciate that occupational health is an issue for public health and, ultimately, national productivity. The World Congress in Singapore in September will be an opportunity for us to learn more on this.

So 2017 will not be a stand still year for any of us – it will be a year of economic, political and environmental uncertainty.

Our ability to flex and respond in a dynamic environment is crucial. In 2017, individuals who can offer risk-takers confidence and certainty will never have been more important. You have showed impressive commitment so far – more and more of you are using IOSH’s Blueprint as one of the tools to support you in providing that assurance to your organisations.

I hope you all have a great and fulfilling year ahead.


Shelley Frost is executive director - policy at IOSH. She was formerly head of sustainability at Aggregate Industries UK and has held a number of senior positions in the health and safety and sustainability arenas, from regulatory, policy and strategy to operational management.

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