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Speech at NEBOSH Graduation - 28 June 2010

Judith Hackitt CBE, HSE Chair

First of all, may I thank NEBOSH for inviting me back for a second year to this auspicious graduation event. I have no idea whether there are any of you in the audience who were also here last year - either because you are graduating with further NEBOSH qualifications or perhaps a friend or relative is graduating this time around.

But fear not, I have written a new speech - I am not simply going to repeat what I said last year!

What I want to start by dong is a repeat of something I said last year, though. Today, is all about you and your achievement. A day to remember with pride. I offer my personal congratulations to each and every one of you. You have worked hard to achieve your diploma and you have chosen to study and gain qualifications in a profession which is virtuous - in the true and positive sense of the word.

In a sense, it should be a statement of the blindingly obvious that every single person in the workplace should be able to go home at the end of every day unharmed by their work. Thankfully, for most of us that is indeed the case. But there are a few things we must never forget.

Between 150 and 200 people continue to die in workplace incidents every year.

More than 100,000 suffer over 3 day lost time injuries - over 20,000 of these are really serious injuries which may result in people never working again.

The latest estimates suggest that the number of people who die early from diseases caused or made worse by work is close to 10,000.

But in spite of this, here in the UK we have a better track record than most. Our performance is as good as anywhere in the world. That's not a position we have arrived at by accident - if you will pardon the pun.

We have arrived at this point by being good at managing workplace health and safety. We have a strong, non-prescriptive regulatory framework enacted by the Health and Safety at Work Act. Legislation that is as fit for purpose today as it's ever been.

We have a proportionate approach which recognises that risks can be neither eliminated or avoided but which can be managed - reasonably and sensibly.

We have very many businesses who understand that proportionate approach. And who also understand that businesses who are good at health and safety are also good at managing and motivating their staff and are, as a result, successful in business terms.

This world leading position comes as a consequence, in part, of the work of many people like ourselves who have acquired expertise in occupational safety and health through study and who are able to apply that in depth knowledge.

I am talking about application in the spirit of recognising that good performance comes from:

I'm proud to be the Chair of the Health and Safety Executive because I am proud of what the organisation actually does. Not what others assume or mistakenly think we do. 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 I also want to make a plea to you all. Apply your knowledge with care and sensitivity. Use it to inspire and motivate others not to burden them with red tape.

Like any other profession, achievement of qualifications is an important step in your chosen career path. But I also believe that professional accreditation of your ability to apply knowledge is an equally important next step.

Enjoy your day and congratulations to you all!

Updated 2010-07-21