Safety and health professionals have been urged to combine their technical know-how with business acumen to strengthen the drive to prevent work-related accidents and ill health.
Craig Foyle, outgoing president of IOSH, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, told its annual international conference that there is increasing recognition among businesses of the connection between protecting workers and being successful.
But, with the deaths of 2.78 million people a year worldwide linked to work, he told delegates at IOSH 2018 that the profession cannot stand still and those working in it must seek to influence decision-making by “speaking the language of the boardroom”.
He said: “In times of uncertainty, businesses are recognising that investing in good safety and health management reduces absences, motivates employees and increases productivity.
“This means that today, safety and health practitioners are much more valued by their organisations. The key challenge for us as a profession is to really demonstrate the significant return on investment of good safety, health and wellbeing management. This can be achieved to some degree by improved reporting standards; making sure boards get reports on safety and health.
“It is crucial that safety and health professionals can combine their key technical skills with a firm understanding of how a business works and are able to speak the language of the boardroom. We need more people coming into the profession armed with leadership skills and the ability to influence decision-makers at the highest level.”
Mr Foyle said that IOSH, the global Chartered body for the profession, is looking to “elevate the status and capability of the profession”.
Last year, it launched a new qualification, the IOSH NCFE Level 3 Certificate in Safety and Health for Business, which teaches students technical skills and business acumen. It has also been running professional development courses, including one which teaches delegates how to communicate with their board.
In addition, IOSH was closely involved in the development of the Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) Technician apprenticeship, created by a ‘Trailblazer’ group of employers, which has enrolled dozens of new SHE Apprentices since the summer.
IOSH launched its own new student membership category at the start of this month.
IOSH 2018 is being held at Birmingham’s International Convention Centre. Hundreds of delegates include safety and health professionals and others responsible for protecting employees, including senior leaders.
The theme of the conference is ‘Shape a new world of work’, something Mr Foyle said delegates can work together to achieve.
“One with fewer workplace accidents and reduced absences because of work-related ill health,” he added.