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Speech to Quarries Target Zero - 22 June 2010

Judith Hackitt CBE, HSE Chair

It is always a pleasure for me to get out and about to meet the real people who are at the sharp end of health and safety and who are making a real difference.

I am delighted to be here today at this target zero recommitment event and let me start by congratulating you on the progress you have made so far.

To have achieved a 76% reduction in RIDDOR reportable injuries over the last 9 years is a fantastic achievement and demonstrates just what can be done when an industry sector makes a real commitment to working together to improve, through the sharing of learning and good practice, with a healthy amount of peer pressure and competition thrown in for good measure!

This industry now has one of the most improving health and safety initiatives which should act as an exemplar and a spur to action to other manufacturing sectors. The achievement is all the more remarkable considering the added pressures which must have been placed on each and every one of you by the very tough economic climate of the last 18-24 months.

But that said, I have always been a great believer that good health and safety is a positive contributor to the bottom line of any business. And I would hope that your achievement in the last couple of years bears witness that this philosophy holds good in practice.

So, having achieved this remarkable success, where do you go from here?

Well first and foremost you need to consolidate the improvement you have achieved and make sure that the factors which have caused the improvement so far become embedded into the culture of every organisation.

I have experience of working in trade associations myself. So I know that you know that there are exemplars and laggards among you even now. And that an important next step is to work on those who are not yet up there with the best of you.

But moving from good to excellent will also require you to look afresh at what you do and how you do it. This is very much akin to the process that HSE went through over the last couple of years in reviewing its own strategy and resetting the direction for health and safety in Great Britain for the 21st Century.

Great Britain has one of the best health and safety performances of any country in the world - but when looking at how we could move on and accelerate our rate of improvement that didn't stop us taking a look at how others did it and learning from them.

Many of the refinements in our strategy came about from that review of what others were doing and incorporating some of their good ideas into our approach. I believe that the same will be true for you.

WE in HSE know that there are pockets of good practice in all sectors. And very often the best practices are in different areas. There is still much to be gained from looking outside your own sector and learning from others.

It is also the case, of course, that this is not simply a task for management in individual organisations to sort out their own problems and challenges. Many of the answers: "to where next?", will be best answered by those who are closest to the coal face - even in the very literal sense in the case of some of you present today.

I am particularly pleased to see Trades Unions here. And to recognise the extent to which you are looking to involve your workforces, and organisations up and down the supply chain as well as the way in which the larger organisations represented have freely and openly shared their learning and good practice with SMEs in the sector.

The way in which your scheme engages people in working groups is excellent. These provide a means of identifying priorities, exploring and understanding the problems and then developing the most effective and proportionate means to help individual companies tackle the real issues for them and ultimately play their part in contributing to the collective improvement in targets.

I recognise that there has been, and will need to continue to be, real leadership commitment.

Creating a safety culture, in fact changing any culture, has to start at the top and be very visibly and consistently led by actions - not just by words. To do this as a collective group of companies within the sector requires even greater leadership. And a recognition that the whole sector is only as good as its weakest link and that sharing good practice on health and safety, even with your competitors and your suppliers and customers, makes sense in the long term.

I also applaud your commitment to involvement of the workforce and increasing levels of competence. You have an impressive track record in vocational qualifications. In particular, I am personally pleased to see that you are running joint manager/worker training courses in health and safety.

I continue to be disappointed and frustrated when I hear about situations where health and safety has been turned into a confrontational issue between management and workforce. Because I believe health and safety should be something that unifies everyone around a common purpose - not a divisive agenda. So, I am impressed by the examples I have heard of people in this sector going the extra mile to the extent that they have put in their own personal time to creating and designing courses and tool-box talks.

Some of the hazards you face in this industry are unique, others are not. I think you have a good balance in knowing the issues where you have to lead the way, not only in commitment terms but in finding solutions to those unique industry specific challenges. But you also know that learning from others is part of leadership - no-one has a monopoly on good ideas - and re-inventing the wheel is a pretty pointless exercise!

Thank you for the invitation to join you today. Congratulations on everything that you have achieved so far and I wish you all the best in achieving the challenging target you have now set for the future.

Rest assured that HSE stands ready to support you as and when it is right and appropriate for us to do so in achieving your goals. But I also get the very firm impression that you have a great deal of resource and energy of your own to take Target Zero forward. And that you understand that for the greatest part - that it is your role and your collective responsibility to do so.

Updated 2010-06-25