2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the HSE. The non-departmental public body has been at the forefront of regulation and enforcement of health and safety in the workplace since 1975. Before then, there were lots of fragmented regulatory bodies which took care of railways, factories, mines, quarries and agriculture.
Huge incidents including Windscale in 1957 and the Flixborough chemical plant explosion in 1974 prompted the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974 to be brought in. It was described as “a bold and far reaching piece of legislation” by the HSE’s first Director General, John Locke. The Act was generally well accepted by all industries, as it engaged employers and employees with forming health and safety processes. This was far removed from the more prescriptive regulations that had gone before.
The HSE will be running their 40th anniversary campaign throughout this year. The body’s Chair, Judith Hackitt, kick-started the celebrations with her message below.
It’s all about people…
Forty years ago, on 1 January 1975, HSE was formally established, some six months after the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Last year we and many of our stakeholders noted the 40th anniversary of the Act itself. Many commented on the extraordinary resilience and adaptability of the legislation which has enabled those sound principles to be applied to a constantly changing work environment and has delivered one of the best workplace health and safety regimes in the world.
But I also believe it’s important to mark the 40th anniversary of the formation of HSE as an organisation – because organisations are about people. It is the dedication and hard work of HSE’s staff over the last 40 years, working with British businesses, workers, government and stakeholders which has made Britain a safer and healthier place to work. It’s an organisation I am immensely proud to be part of, because of the dedication and professionalism of its people.
There have been many changes within the organisation over that time but I am impressed by just how many of our staff have been part of the organisation from the outset. I can’t mention them all by name, but I do want to single out Kevin Myers in particular. His lifelong commitment to the organisation has been fittingly recognised on this 40th anniversary with a CBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours.
During this 40th year for HSE, we will be taking the opportunity to reflect on our past achievements, celebrate our successes and making people more aware of the full range of activities which go to make our organisation so effective – and that means telling stories about our people and what they do. I can think of no better way to start that than with seeing Kevin recognised for his outstanding work for the organisation over the whole of that 40 year history.
HSE has helped Britain become one of the safest places to work in the world and as a result, its skills and insight are in demand internationally. Our knowledge of how to effectively regulate construction and major hazards are of particular interest to others and it is by no means a coincidence that in the last 15 years Kevin has been Head of Construction and of Major hazards in HSE.
As we take stock of how far we’ve come, it is a very fitting time to say thank you to all of HSE’s staff (past and present) for the part they’ve played. HSE is a different organisation today to the one that was established 40 years ago, but our core purpose and our values remain the same – striving ever harder to ensure people go to work and go back home safely.