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2012 - What a year

I normally associate reviews of the year with the period between Christmas and New Year, but it seems that every radio and TV programme is getting started early on reporting their particular highlights of 2012.

I heard someone on the radio recently saying that their highlight was the ladies' choir in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant, demonstrating true British spirit in the face of relentless rain!

So, not wanting to buck the trend, here are some of my highlights of 2012:

Some of the visits I've made to companies this year have been amazing. I regard getting out and about and seeing what happens on the ground in business as an important part of my role. It helps me to understand the challenges firms are facing and to understand how they manage health and safety in their workplaces. This year I have been to a luxury car manufacturer in the Midlands, a major shipbuilding project in Scotland, a well know china and porcelain company and a privately owned bakery, among others. Every one of these businesses recognised that managing health and safety was part of doing the job properly and well - not one of them spoke about health and safety being a burden. Companies like these show what good practice looks like and how good health and safety makes a positive contribution to business growth and the bottom line.

At the start of 2012, I visited the apprentice training organisation in Stanlow which trains young people for surrounding industries. It was great to see the enthusiasm of the apprentices and to watch them acquiring real practical skills. It was here that I encountered the simplest approach to risk assessment I had ever seen - they called it "the four whats":

Simple, but effective. Why do others make it so much more complex?

My visit to Ysgol Cae Top in Bangor was inspiring. Primary school children were building and firing their own Roman style catapults and learning to manage risk without anyone mentioning the dreaded "elf 'n safety".

My visits to Singapore, Australia and New Zealand have also been memorable - not least because it makes me proud of what HSE does when I encounter the keenness of others to learn from us and the high regard in which we are held around the world.

No list of 2012 highlights would be complete without a mention of the Olympics. It is only now after the great spectacle is over that people are beginning to realise what a massive achievement the health and safety performance of the Big Build was. I was personally thrilled to see the construction worker guard of honour for the torch at the opening ceremony.

The Myth Busters Challenge Panel has made an extraordinary impact in its first year of operation. Over 100 cases have been reviewed and myths busted. The media have reported on some of the most ridiculous cases we've dealt with and I received the Sun's Common Sense Award - what an honour!

It's been a busy and a challenging year for everyone involved in health and safety. The challenges never stop so it's good to look back at some of the really great things which have been going on and which I hope we can build on in 2013 and beyond. My last five years as Chair of HSE have simply flown by and I'm looking forward to the challenges and highlights of the next three years.

Merry Christmas and Happy new year to everyone who reads this blog.

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