Thank you for your kind invitation to attend this event. It’s a great pleasure for me to join you but it also feels quite strange to be speaking to you from a somewhat different perspective from our previous interactions!
My many years working in the chemical industry and particularly my eight years at CIA should mean that you can take it as read that I strongly support Trade Association leadership in health and safety and that I believe in the responsible Care/Coatings Care ethic.
All too often people see trade Associations as lobbying organisations who are there to protect their industry and fend off regulation. Whilst I acknowledge that this is the raison d’être for some trade associations, the real leaders in the field are those organisations who work hard to raise standards and performance within the industry and who, like the Health and Safety Commission and Executive, seek to ensure a common sense approach to proportionate and effective regulation.
An organisation like HSC/E which covers all of the GB workplaces and industry sectors cannot hope to be expert in everything. You know your sector much better than we ever will – you understand the challenges, you know where good practice exists and you have the means and the fora available to share that good practice – through peer pressure, workshops, joint working and Coatings care. This is a highly effective way for industry to share best practice in health safety and environmental performance.
It is a particular pleasure for me to talk to people here today who clearly understand what real health and safety is all about. I am alarmed and saddened by the way ‘health and safety’ is being abused and devalued in the media and elsewhere as a very convenient excuse for not doing an awful lot of things – ranging from putting up Christmas lights to banning wet T-shirt competitions! I can think of some very good reasons for banning wet T-shirt competitions but health and safety would not be one of them!
Sensible risk management is key in every Sector. The nature of the hazards to be dealt with and the way in which the risks are managed and controlled often need to be sector specific.
You are the best people to assess the risks in your industry and to identify the most appropriate solutions, you can share good practice which is appropriate and pertinent to your businesses. We encourage you to keep up this activity and offer our support.
In the year(s) ahead you and we face some significant new challenges as well as continuing to be successful in managing those things we are already very much aware of.
For us all, REACH is going to be a major feature.
The development of guidance on this complex regulation is a clear example of where sub-sector specific input has been essential in the REACH Implementation Project process. Your interests and concerns in REACH have some overlap with those of chemical producers, but as downstream users of chemicals you will also experience different challenges in REACH implementation. HSE has established a helpdesk to support all REACH dutyholders in the UK and we are running regional awareness events as well as working with DEFRA on production of UK guidance and communication.
The costs of REACH implementation do remain a concern for industry and we are aware that the recent draft Fees regulation published by the EU Commission has revealed levels of fees higher than expected. What is very clear is that there is a need for much greater transparency if the agencies required to oversee implementation and enforcement of REACH are to be seen to be delivering value for money.
What often gets overshadowed by REACH is the implementation of GHS – the so-called ‘global’ harmonisation system for classification and labelling of chemicals.
Over time the regulation will replace the GB’s Chemical (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations, more usually known as CHIP. Timing of implementation of GHS in relation to REACH is also an important issue.
HSE is leading for the UK on GHS and is working closely with other government departments. A formal consultation was published in August and ended on 2 November. We have noted the very detailed and thorough response we have received from BCF.
Within the HSE/C organisation you will also see some changes over the coming year or so. The current separate organisations of the Executive and Commission will merge becoming the new non-Board of HSE. Consultation on this proposal received wide support in principle from stakeholders and will certainly make it much easier to explain different roles and responsibilities in future.
The next step will be the laying of an Order under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 to effect the necessary amendments to the HSW Act. Subject to the Parliamentary scrutiny process we expect to implement the new governance arrangements during the Spring of 2008.
Let me stress that this important and modernising change to the governance structure will not cause any major differences in your day to day interaction with the organisation. We will continue to work in much the same way with all our key stakeholders and on the same operational and policy priorities.
We have also taken the decision to consolidate our activities into one HQ office in Bootle with a much reduced presence here in London. Whilst the only impact this is likely to have on our stakeholders is a positive one in the sense of improved accessibility and coordination, it is important to note that we, like all other organisations, are continuing to look at our structures and costs from a strategic perspective. The move of HSE staff will be managed carefully to ensure that we are able to continue our functions during the transition. We are currently working on the assumption that the relocation will start during the next financial year. HSE estimates that it will take around 2 years to complete.
I am now delighted to make the Awards for Coatings Care and offer HSE’s personal congratulations to all of the entrants and finalists.