First of all, thank you for inviting me to join you for dinner this evening. I am pleased to be here to recognise the Forum's achievements over the last decade and to mark the launch of the new publication HSG261 - 'Health and safety in motor vehicle repair and associated industries'.
The motor vehicle repair industry is an important area for HSE, not only because it employs over 170,000 people. It covers such a wide range of work locations and business sizes and continues to require physical and manual effort, which exposes people to potential dangers ranging from harmful dust to slips and trips, and crushing by equipment / vehicles.
I hardly need to remind you that there have been over 8,000 injuries and 24 deaths in the motor vehicle repair industry over the last 5 years. The fatal and major injury accident rate for MVR work is actually very high compared to other engineering/manufacturing industries. I mention these statistics to highlight the challenge which lies ahead, not in any way to diminish the achievements of the Forum over the last 10 years.
Your forum has helped to get the messages over to companies that the task of the employer is to identify and manage the risks inherent in the nature of the work you all do.
I therefore want to congratulate you on your 10th birthday. This cannot have been as easy forum to manage, especially given the range of companies, of all sizes, your remit covers. But your hard work really is appreciated. I am particularly pleased that your remit specifically covers advice on the protection of people at work and the protection of the public from hazards to health and safety. Whether repair work is taking place in a workshop or by the roadside, the potential for harm to members of the public as well as employees is real and I commend you for your clear recognition of that within your remit.
I always try to impress on people wherever I speak the importance of partnerships and engaging people. I am a strong advocate of the tri-partite structure that the Forum has adopted – and want to thank Peter Woolgar in HSE for all his and his colleagues hard work in making this such a success.
The MVR Forum is a very good example of how to engage with the relevant stakeholders. I know there is engagement of the workforce and trades unions, which really gives them a voice and allows knowledge to be shared.
I'd like to mention two recent examples of the Forum's work, which I believe illustrate the very practical work that you do:
In addition, I'd like to highlight an MVR-specific project that has been running since 2004. I want to mention this to emphasise the importance of health as well as safety issues in your sector. The project is to improve the design of equipment, instructions, training, maintenance and advice provided to the MVR sector concerning controlling exposure to isocyanate.
This project was initiated because, for many years, exposure to isocyanate, predominantly in vehicle paint spraying, has been the biggest cause of occupational asthma in Great Britain.
Although this was a separate project, the Forum's support has been key to its success. The Forum has formed a key part of the external consultation process for the guidance documents developed by the MVR Project Team. This ensured that the guidance reflected industry practice and set realistic standards. This is a great example of collaborative work, and the sort of activity we believe will aid the delivery of the new Health and Safety Strategy for Great Britain that we launched in June.
I know you had a meeting earlier this afternoon which included a discussion of the new Strategy and how your Forum can contribute to its delivery. The launch of HSG261 – that I know has taken over two years to prepare – is a first class example.
The guidance has been produced by and for the industry, which gives it added status. The leaflets that are being produced also use clear, simple language and images which can only add to this achievement.
So, to those involved in this, you can take pride that your work will undoubtedly be helping to save lives and avoid people becoming ill and / or getting injured in Motor Vehicle Repair work.
The Forum exemplifies what the HSE's Strategy is all about. Building on successes to date and adapting and changing to meet new challenges and risks as they arise. The current economic climate adds to those challenges but can never be an excuse to cut corners or take chances with health and safety.
In fact it's now a very good time for us all to reinforce the message that organisations and businesses succeed by taking common sense and proportionate approaches to health and safety risk.
As you – the MVR Forum – celebrate your 10th anniversary, you should look back with justified satisfaction at the effective communication network you've created. It has allowed you to identify and respond swiftly to issues as they have arisen, pooling your collective resources to provide a quality service to the MVR industry. Well done, thank you.