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Report shows HSC on course to meet most targets

Of most interest to readers will be the first part, dealing with delivery against the HSC Business Plan for 2006/07 and developments within the HSC/E during the year.

Much of the first part of the report examines how the HSC has performed against the 'Revitalising Health and Safety' (RHS) strategy (published in 2000) and the national targets for 2010. It appears from the 2006/07 report that substantial progress has been made towards achieving the goals. However, Bill Callaghan, HSC Chairman, remarks in his foreword to the report: "There are worrying signs of an increased level of fatalities in the construction industry." He also mentions other factors that need to be borne in mind despite the progress that has been made; for example, the changing structure of the labour market, a more diverse workforce (including many migrant workers), and the growth of hazardous industries such as recycling.

As with any organisation, the HSC is resource-limited, so Bill Callaghan says that the challenges have to be met through prioritisation, efficient use of resources, and by the use of closer, more productive partnership working.

On the subject of limited resources, Geoffrey Podger, HSE Chief Executive, refers in the report to a tighter budgetary situation that requires the HSE to lose some 250 to 350 posts by the end of 2007/08 (most of which will be achieved through natural turnover). While Bill Callaghan expresses concerns about the construction industry, Geoffrey Podger draws attention to the offshore oil industry, where the competence of personnel and the effect of ageing plant are sources of worry for the HSE.

Looking at the actual performance against targets, the first table in the report shows that the HSC is on course against its target to reduce the incidence of work-related ill-health by 20 per cent and is 'probably on course' to meet the target to reduce the number of working days lost from work-related injury and ill health by 30 per cent. However, the HSC is not currently on course to achieve its target 10 per cent reduction in the incidence of fatal and major injuries, even though considerable progress has been made since 1999/2000.

In general the HSC is forecast to meet its targets, but one other area where this is not the case is the reduction in the number of major and significant hydrocarbon releases in the offshore oil and gas sector by 45 per cent.

Within the report there are comments about the various initiatives and activities the HSE has been involved with. One in particular worth highlighting is Workplace Health Connect (WHC), which has been operating since February 2006. This government-funded service offers free, confidential, practical advice on workplace health, safety and absence management to smaller businesses. By the time the report was prepared, WHC had handled around 5000 enquiries and some 3000 businesses had requested a visit from a WHC advisor.

The general picture presented by the report is that good progress is being made but complacency must not be allowed to creep in. As well as there being sectors that are not improving as quickly as desired, work is evolving in other areas with the potential to have an adverse influence on health, safety and wellbeing.

'Meeting challenges... Health and Safety Commission Annual Report. Health and Safety Commission/Executive Accounts 2006/07' (ISBN 9780102944747) can be downloaded from the HSE website as a PDF file.

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