Lecture challenges safety professionals and business community to join forces on accident prevention

Encouraging workplaces and the wider community to come together to tackle the scourge of accidents is essential in the drive to save lives and cut NHS costs.

The measures needed to help deliver Britain’s public health objectives were outlined in the keynote address at the sixth Allan St John Holt Memorial Lecture on Tuesday. The lecture is staged annually by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and Royal Mail.

The lecture, entitled “Building safe communities: enhancing the business contribution”, was given by Professor Richard Parish, non-executive director of Public Health England (PHE) and the former chief executive of the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH), at the Crowne Plaza NEC, in Birmingham. It was organised by Shaun Davis - group director, safety, health and wellbeing at Royal Mail - and his team as their contribution to the European Week for Safety and Health at Work.

Professor Parish urged the audience, made up of business leaders and safety professionals, to go much further in promoting healthier lifestyles, not only through the workplace but by helping to tackle the scourge of accidents occurring outside of work as well. He also praised RoSPA for raising the profile of accident prevention with the launch of its public health campaign.

He said: “Historically, occupational safety and health has made a massive contribution to the health and wellbeing of Britain’s population. Yet there are still challenges, including tackling occupational cancer and respiratory disease, managing occupational road risk and reducing work-related musculoskeletal disorders and stress.

“For too long the huge spectre of more than 3 million serious accidental injuries annually has been overshadowed by other medical priorities, largely because they are not a problem addressed by clinical interventions. Yet the impact of accidental injury on our critically over-stretched NHS is crippling. RoSPA is to be congratulated for getting accident prevention back onto the public health agenda and showing how occupational safety and health professionals can make a major contribution to wider public health priorities.

“Accidents affect the young disproportionately, and as such are the biggest cause of Preventable Years of Life Lost (PrYLL). And because it is cheap, accident prevention is one of the most cost-effective public health measures we can invest in as a nation. It really is a no brainer.”

Professor Parish challenged the audience to consider their potential leadership roles in public health as a whole, from outreach work with local communities to supporting LASER (Learning about Safety by Experiencing Risk) centres.
Tom Mullarkey, chief executive of RoSPA, said: “We know that the huge problems of accidental injury and ill-health are growing. We see that health and safety is besieged on all sides by critics who cannot, or will not, engage with these serious issues and instead seek to deride this vital contribution to society; so it is time to come out fighting.  Health and safety professionals need to reinvent their image and impact by taking their vast reservoir of knowledge on how to keep people safe and healthy, out into the community.”

The lecture is held in honour of Allan Holt OBE, who died aged 63 in 2007. He was a highly-respected health and safety practitioner who made an outstanding contribution to improving workplace health and safety in the UK and was group head of health and safety at Royal Mail. He was the first person to be awarded RoSPA’s Distinguished Service Award posthumously.

For more information on the lecture, visit www.rospa.com/occupationalsafety/memorial/allan-holt-memorial-lecture.aspx.

For information on Royal Mail’s health and safety activities, visit www.myroyalmail.com/working-royal-mail/health-and-safety.

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