Public Services - letter from the Chair

Letter from the Chair, Stuart Langston, on behalf of the Public Service Committee 

Dear Group Member, 

It has been a while since my last update and I am sorry for that unfortunately my committee colleagues and I have been responding to all things Covid and it seems will have finally turned the corner and we can focus on other health and safety issues which have never gone away and remain a challenge. With this in mind, as I write this, I received an email indicating it has been 50 years since the Roben’s report, which in the UK, lead to the Health and Safety at Work Act and ultimately formation of the regulator (in its current form) the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The HSE has just published it ten year strategy, a copy can be found here. Two of the strategic objectives are very specific to the UK but 3 work across the public services sector wherever you operate    

  • Reduce work-related ill health, with a specific focus on mental health and stress 
  • Increase and maintain trust to ensure people feel safe where they live, where they work and, in their environment 
  • Enable industry to innovate safely to prevent major incidents, supporting the move towards net zero 

There has been an increased focus, over the last few years, on work related ill health however the second bullet point that is very interesting for those of working in the public sector and that is “feel safe where they live”. Following Grenfell there has been understandably a lot of concern as to system failures and in England a lot of new legislation has recently been passed. The Building Safety Act 2022 has now been published, supported by the new Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 which is the start of what we be a period of significant change as regards how fire safety is regulated. A lot of this is aimed predominantly at “High Rise” that is over 18 metres or 7 stories but that is not the whole story particularly in those other higher risk domestic dwellings where 2 or more households share the premises.  

I know public sector colleagues across the world are tackling the issue of fire, particularly in sleeping risk premises built using modern building techniques and how to support those with additional needs evacuate building safely. It is this latter point we are considering hosting an event in 2023 on this topic aimed at social care and other public sector residential settings.  

Innovation will have an increasing impact of the role of the health and safety practitioner as industries adapt to Net Zero strategies. For example just in the past week we have seen a number of buses destroyed as result of battery charging/storage arrangements. This and other similar incidents attributable to lithium ion batteries in vehicles shows and we need to be flexible to not only the benefits but the increased risk from new technology. 

Another area where working and home life overlap is when driving at work. Increasingly whether this is acting as a delivery driver in the gig economy or a social worker visiting different people in their homes people use their own cars. In a lot of cases these journeys will be direct from home with very little contact with a base or office. These Greyfleet drivers can sometimes sit in a limbo area which may not monitored or assessed in the same way as other health and safety risks. Clive Werrett, Vice Chair of the Public Service Group, will be delivering a webinar on this topic entitled The Grey Fleet – A different perspective which will be held on 12th July 2022.  


Disclaimer: The information and opinions expressed on this webpage are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).