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NEBOSH Graduation Ceremony - 23rd June 2014

Judith Hackitt CBE, HSE Chair

Keynote speech:

May I start by thanking NEBOSH for inviting me to be here and joining in this prestigious occasion today. Although I have been unable to attend the last couple of events, it is always a great pleasure for me to be here and share in the pride and celebration which marks a day like today.

I want to start by congratulating NEBOSH on its Queen’s Award for Enterprise which was awarded in recognition of its outstanding achievement in International Trade. In the three-year period ending in March 2013 the organisation more than tripled registrations from overseas. What a fantastic achievement, not only as NEBOSH is one of only 110 companies in the UK to receive the award, but because we are spreading the knowledge and good practice around the world – ensuring an even greater impact on Heath Safety and the Environment.

But the focus of today is really on all of you who are about the receive your awards. Congratulations to you all on the achievements which you and your friends and families are here to celebrate. I hope today will be a day that you’ll remember for the rest of your lives. This ceremony is a celebration of your success in gaining these very well regarded and sought after qualifications.

Your qualifications come from an organisation which is highly regarded, not just here in the UK, but worldwide. They are designed to provide you with the knowledge and understanding needed to improve and sustain health, safety and environmental management in workplaces. So, graduates, you are all now part of an elite group who hold these influential qualifications.

Please accept my personal congratulations for what you’ve worked hard to obtain, your NEBOSH Diploma. Despite the hard work element, I hope you’ve all found time to enjoy this period of study, to make new friends among your fellow students friends and create networks which will be able to support you in the future.

All of us who work in the disciplines of health safety and environment share a deep seated commitment to saving lives and preventing harm but we all need to remember that there’s a line to be drawn between doing what is worthwhile and valuable and becoming a bore – or what my daughters would call a “fun sponge”. The world is full of risk – it is not our job to eliminate it – but to manage the things in the workplace that really place people and the environment at risk of serious harm. Your role is to get others to do what is sensible and reasonable – so it needs to be exactly that – sensible and reasonable. Insisting on lids on coffee cups in the workplace when noone does that in their own home is neither of those things – so when you find yourself being tempted to implement some of those rather silly risk measures that seem to have found their way into so many workplaces – please stop and thing again.

Apply what you’ve learned well, help your companies’ to do their business safely but by managing risks in a way that is proportionate and focused, not over the top and stifling – and boring.

Those of you graduating today do so in the year of the 40th Anniversary of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

So I want take a few minutes now to remind you all just how smart GB’s health and safety system is and why it remains, fit  for purpose to face the future and World Class.

Its principles are the key.

Health and safety law in GB places responsibility on those who create risks to manage those risks in a proportionate, practical way. It sets standards in terms of outcomes to be achieved, but it does not bind dutyholders and business into doing things in a particular way according to prescriptive rules - and ticking of boxes. Our legislation places ownership and responsibility for managing risk where it belongs and it places a duty on every employee to look out for themselves and their colleagues, not just on managers to provide a safe system. 

The principles are universally applicable – regardless of whether you’re farming, fracking for shale gas or working with nano-materials in an ultra high-tech laboratory.

GB’s health and safety performance compared to any other country in the world has proven the effectiveness of the approach, and, as GB’s own industrial profile has changed over the last 20 years, it has also proven its adaptability. It is a system that is designed to enable growth, and innovation, to take place. Forty years on we have a system which is widely recognised and lauded as world-class and which others want to copy – and we like NEBOSH want to share that knowledge and expertise around the world to save even more lives.

I regard it as an enormous privilege to be the Chair of HSE in this its 40th Anniversary year. I am proud of who we are and what we do and I am looking forward to playing my part in setting HSE on its course for the next 40 years. Like the organisations that every one of you work in or are about to join, HSE needs to continue to improve and innovate to stay world class, but we must also hold onto those core principles and qualities that everyone associates with our brand. 

You graduation today is an important step on a journey into a very worthwhile career where you can make a difference. There’s plenty to challenge today’s health and safety professionals – injuries, fatalities and ill health challenges remain and the world of work is constantly evolving, we must adapt, be dynamic and flexible to remain at our most effective.

I'm glad to be Chair of the Health and Safety Executive because I am proud of what the organisation does. I want you all to take pride today in becoming part of a community of professionals who have an important role to play in saving lives and preventing harm. But, apply your knowledge well, inspire and motivate others and find ways to enable activity rather than prevent it.

Don’t become a bore or the root cause of a health and safety myth, ensure that your contribution to the health and safety system is proportionate, targeted and enables activities to take place.

Thanks for inviting me to celebrate with you, have a great day and congratulations to you all!

Updated 2014-07-17