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Health and safety competency linked with business survival at national conference

Employers across Ireland were warned not to “gamble” with the health and safety of their workforces during uncertain economic times. Finding the right, competent people to do the job of protecting people from injury and ill-health at work was not an “optional extra”, said the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health Ireland Branch (IOSH) at its conference in Kilkenny. In fact, good health and safety can be used as a means of business survival in the difficult recovery from recession, the Branch said. IOSH Ireland Branch chair Declan Gibney, who opened the conference, said: “As budgets shrink amidst difficult economic times here in Ireland, businesses can sometimes feel that health and safety is not only an optional extra, but that it involves gambling on whether the person they employ will be able to protect their workforce from injury and ill-health at work”.

“We want to demystify competency, helping practitioners and businesses to stay abreast of what good, practical, proportionate advice looks like. IOSH builds high standards of health and safety into its very fabric, and this is what

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we’re trying to do across workplaces in Ireland”. During the day, Health and Safety Authority (HSA) assistant chief executive Mary Dorgan addressed delegates with a talk on how the organisation is trying to equip employers with the knowledge of who is best to safeguard staff health and safety. She said that those who take health and safety seriously will benefit Mary Dorgan, HSA Assistant Chief Exec from profits, growth and utive. survival. Ms. Dorgan added: “The message we get is that employers are confused, but our inspectors want to help companies to assess competency, via training, knowledge and experience”. She also spoke about the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants’ Register (OSHCR), launched in the UK in the wake of the Governmentcommissioned review of health and safety. The register is designed to give businesses a platform from which to pick the right consultant for them, while approving those practitioners who are on its books. “We have not considered a register here in Ireland as a role for the HSA, although the climate is in some cases similar over here (to the UK). Our approach will focus more on providing employers with the tools and assistance to assess providers”, she added.

In her talk, Ms. Dorgan praised professional bodies for improving workplace health and safety across Ireland, highlighting IOSH’s role in setting and benchmarking standards and influencing businesses. Earlier in the day, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents’ (RoSPA) occupational safety adviser, Roger Bibbings, placed practitioners’ competence in the context of recent political developments, highlighting the UK’s Government-led review of health and safety. “Health and safety isn’t about stopping people growing businesses or having fun, getting in the way, or creating anxiety, or stopping fire fighters from rescuing people from burning buildings. It’s about empowering and enabling and it allows people to lead lives more successfully than we already do”, Mr. Bibbings said. Amongst other speakers was Dr. Noel Richardson, director of the Centre for Men’s Health at the Institute of Technology, Carlow, revealing results from the first EU report on men’s health, which was launched in June.

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