Dame Judith Hackitt’s ‘Risk Assessment’ – Lots of visits but not the end of the journey….

My last few weeks in HSE have been even busier than usual. Not only have we completed the launch of our new strategy for the health and safety system in Great Britain, but I have been out on a number of visits where I’ve seen (mostly) good and (one or two) not so good practices for myself.

My travels included a return to Crossrail where I saw the remarkable progress that has taken place since I last visited three years ago. It was another reminder to me of how integral a strong health and safety culture is to major construction sites in the UK. I saw the same in-built culture at the site of our formal strategy launch event in London, which took place at the Battersea Power station site. It was really encouraging on both visits to note how health now receives the same level of attention as safety – excellent examples of the new strategy being lived out in practice.

I’ve also visited a large bakery firm where I saw real management commitment to tackling priority issues in their business – one of which is associated with distribution and delivery to hundreds to retail outlets every single day of the year. I saw an impressive level of innovation put into redesign of vehicles, addition of cameras to vehicles, intensive driver training and a clear message to drivers to report any safety concerns. What also impressed me was the company has seen real, hard financial benefits from the investment they’ve made in improving safety. The company features in the Sunday Times List of best companies to work for. Another great example of the strategy in action.

I was invited to Cambridge Regional Further Education College where I saw people being trained in practical skills ranging from bricklaying, carpentry and car repair to catering, hairdressing and beauty. What a great place to spend a day, seeing young people acquiring skills in preparation for their chosen field of work and also acquiring self-confidence as they go. I spoke to several students and their enthusiasm was clear – as was their commitment to learning the right way to do the job – understanding the need to manage risks was integral to the learning process.

I then went to West Rise Junior School in Eastbourne. What a magnificent and inspiring place which demonstrates just what is possible in terms of providing children as young as 9 and10 years old with experiences that expose them to risks, and which they learn how to manage those risks for themselves in a proportionate manner while learning all kinds of new skills

I have always enjoyed going out on visits with HSE’s inspectors and my last such visit to construction sites in Manchester was no exception. These were not major construction projects on the scale of Crossrail or Battersea, but smallish refurbishment and conversion projects in the heart of the city. At one of the sites we visited, it was not the basic safety procedures which concerned me – they were by and large in good shape, it was the welfare facilities that caught my attention.The facilities were actually better than many I’ve seen but what surprised me was the lack of cleanliness and the amount of litter and detritus around the place. The site manager told us he personally cleans the toilets and kitchen on a regular basis because no one else does it. An admirable gesture on his part, but there has to be a better answer. What happened to leadership and getting people to take responsibility?

This may seem like a trivial example but it is as much a part of the strategy as tackling ill health and making health and safety integral with business success. This is what we mean by wider ownership – making it part of everyone’s job to keep things in good order – not allowing people to make a mess and expecting someone else to clean it up.

This visit was a salutary reminder that improvements are still to be made in many places, and hearts and minds to win over. We’ve made a lot of progress but there’s no end to the journey.

It’s been a hectic few weeks at the end of a most enjoyable and challenging eight and a half years as Chair of HSE. I’ve enjoyed writing this blog and I hope you’ve found some of it thought provoking. I will be continuing to #HelpGBWorkWell as I move on to pastures new. My thanks and best wishes go to you all – keep up the good work!

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BDC 311 : Dec 2023