Dealing with the risks and challenges of the digital age

British Safety Council launches its new manifesto at a parliamentary reception

At a reception in Parliament, attended by MPs and peers from across the political spectrum, the British Safety Council launched its new manifesto, Combating risk in the digital age. Protecting people in the economy of the future that will set the direction for its activities in the future.

This year, the British Safety Council has been celebrating its 60th anniversary with a variety of initiatives, films and publications, which reflect its proud history of campaigning for the protection of people and the environment. However, over these 60 years, the environment in which the charity has worked and campaigned has significantly changed.

Until a few decades ago, Britain was an industrial economy and many people were engaged in heavy, manual work. Thousands of people were killed or suffered serious injuries at work, and the focus of the British Safety Council’s efforts were safety issues. Now, Britain is a professional and service-based economy in which workers face different demands and risks. As the number of accidents has decreased, there has been an increasing awareness of health issues and their long-term implications. Today, a highly skilled and knowledgeable workforce is at the heart of the economy. Many people can operate from anywhere with an internet connection and the gig economy is changing the nature of employment relationships.

“These are challenging times for businesses in the UK, and the British Safety Council is committed to leading the way in positioning safety, wellbeing and sustainability at the very heart of all our futures,” said Lynda Armstrong, Chair of the British Safety Council, launching its new manifesto.

“Our manifesto sets out our commitments under five headings:

  • An examplar: We will conduct our business in line with the models which we promote, investing in our people and running our business in a sustainable manner.  We will champion innovation and lead the application of digital technology to promote health, safety and environmental protection across business sectors.
  • A respected voice: We will be a respected voice in health and safety, developing knowledge and awareness to support the proportionate management of health, as well as safety risk. We will provide authoritative advice and thought leadership on topical issues.
  • A facilitator of collaboration and engagement: We will facilitate collaboration and promote the sharing of best practice, information and expertise in support of continual improvement and knowledge development.
  • An innovative educator: We will provide high quality education and skills-based learning to promote competence in wellbeing, safety and sustainability matters.
  • An advocate for young people: We will support young people in gaining an understanding of health, safety and environmental issues, to help them take sensible risk decisions in the modern workplace.”

“We cannot do this alone. Partnership and collaboration will be key to meeting our objectives and we are committed to working with Government, regulators, professional bodies and businesses to deliver our vision that no-one should be injured or made ill at work,” concluded Lynda Armstrong.

Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith, who worked as a press officer for the British Safety Council in 1982, said that the work of the British Safety Council “could not be more difficult and more important than it is today.” Referring to recent government policies such as cuts to legal aid, he said: “I’m afraid the zeitgeist is very much against [health and safety], and the nonsense we hear about ‘health and safety gone mad’. It’s a shame that since the halcyon days of the Health and Safety at Work Act and that revolution in the right direction on health and safety in this country, that we have gone some way backwards.

“But that is what the British Safety Council does best; it is not just a professional organisation, it’s a campaigning organisation. It’s voice is always heard and it’s always on the right side.”

Martin Temple, chair of the Health and Safety Executive, said: “The pace of change is getting quicker and the nature of work is changing faster. We’re now seeing reports that 65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in jobs that do not yet exist.”

The HSE will focus on three health priorities: targeting work-related stress, musculoskeletal disorders and occupational lung disease. The statistics are compelling: in the UK, 12,000workers die from lung disease every year. Nine million working days are lost due to musculoskeletal disorders and 12 million working days are lost due to stress.

“Let’s not kid ourselves that this is all going to be a stroll in the park. We know it’s going to be difficult. But we also know that now is the time to push for improvement,” he concluded.

Lawrence Waterman, chair-designate of the British Safety Council, continued Martin Temple’s argument, saying: “Radical change in the workplace will have to be reflected in radical change in the charity. The great thing about the British Safety Council is it has remained relevant in each of the years it’s has been operating.

“The balance that we have to strike is a very interesting one. Before the disaster occurs, health and safety is ‘a burden, a nuisance, a bureaucratic, horrible thing that I’ve got to work through’. Once the disaster has occurred, everyone says ‘someone should have done something to stop this happening’. We have to explain that what you do to prevent the nasty things happening, determines the way you operate business as usual.

“The manifesto is a call to arms for everyone engaged with the British Safety Council, its trustees, members and staff. But it’s also a call to action for the whole industry, the workforce and trades unions. This manifesto is the beginning of the next chapter in the history of this great organisation,” concluded Lawrence Waterman.