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Looking ahead

It's hard for me to believe that I have already completed 5 years as Chair of HSE. The time has simply flown by, but on the 1st October I start my second term of appointment. I am absolutely delighted to be carrying on with this role and it inevitably leads me to think about some of the challenges that lie ahead over the next 3 years or so.

Whilst there are many changes facing any organisation, the first and most important challenge facing HSE remains constant - continuing to make inroads in reducing the toll taken by workplace accidents and work-related ill health, particularly industrial diseases. Illness and disease caused by work is an area where I would particularly like to see us make greater progress.

For a variety of reasons it has proven more difficult to achieve significant improvements in health than safety That may be because the effects on health manifest themselves more slowly than injuries - in some cases decades after the original exposure. It may be because there often isn't a neat dividing line between what damages a person's health at work and what harms a person's health in their lifestyle and personal circumstances. It may even be because some employers don't regard it as important to manage a risk to an employee's health that will only manifest itself long after they have moved on and left their employment.

In the Strategy which we launched back in 2009 we said that we wanted everyone to "be part of the solution". This applies to work related health issues as much as to safety. We can do the research, we can raise awareness of the risks, we can provide guidance and we can inspect to check compliance. But sustained change will only be delivered if we can change the mindset of those responsible for those risks - putting occupational ill health on the same footing as workplace injuries.

It won't come as any surprise that I am determined to keep up the efforts to restore the reputation of health and safety. Regular readers of the blog will know that I am a persistent critic of dishonest decisions blamed on health and safety, which are actually done for other reasons entirely. I hope by now that it is beginning to dawn on those who wrongly roll out these excuses that they will be challenged, either by HSE, the people they are trying to dupe or the media. People are getting frustrated with the way the excuse gets trotted out, and I believe we are making progress in getting people to see the difference between real health and safety and the nonsense. But we can't stop now - we must keep up the pressure.

I remain very proud to be Chair of this organisation. I think we've achieved a lot in the last 5 years, which is down to the efforts of a large number of excellent people who work in this organisation. But there is still a lot to do to continue the process of reform and modernisation which we've started. I'm looking forward to the next 3 years, I know they will be challenging but that probably means they will pass just as quickly as the last 5 years have.

2016-04-13