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Raising the profile of Science and Engineering in HSE

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Andrew Curran, Chief Scientific Advisor and Head of GSE profession for the Health and Safely Executive, shares his pleasing problem.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is an organisation steeped in science and engineering; approximately a quarter of our staff are S&E professionals and many others have backgrounds in related fields.

Andrew Curran
Andrew Curran

All of us work in an environment where science and engineering underpins the regulatory approach we take, supports enforcement action we have to take and the policy interventions we lead on in helping Great Britain work well.

This means HSE staff are very familiar with the science and engineering we do, and that we work across disciplines to bring the right people together at the right time to tackles the issues we face.  As often happens when something is well known they treat it as if it’s always been there. And that’s my pleasing problem – raising the profile of a profession, and the work we do, in an organisation that knows about it, and uses its work every day.

Shouting in the street

The simple answer to this problem is to shout about it enough that it drowns out the other noise of the work day, in our case that meant putting on an event in our HQ (Redgrave Court, in Bootle just outside Liverpool) and making sure it was somewhere no-one could miss it.

We are lucky in that we have a street, running the length of the building which we can use for displays and demonstrations – with science and engineering we can fill the entire length of it… And we did. We covered everything from how facemasks can be confirmed to fit (a multi-disciplinary team from the HSE labs and our Field Operations Division), virtual reality, how HSE works with GSE to further the profession, the role of social scientists and economists in the health and safety system and much more.  We also opened up our event to colleagues from the Office for Nuclear Regulation and Prospect.

Pipes in a machine
The work of HSE scientists and engineers is found everywhere such as assuring the use of composites in pipes

We also made sure that the HSE Science and Engineering Assurance Committee was meeting on the same day, this allowed them to talk to the scientists behind the reports they’ve read and to see some of the material they’ve heard of in our investigations; such as the use of composites to repair pipes, how you can assess exposure based on the amount of chromium someone exhales and how HSE uses Futures techniques and Insight to inform our plans going forward.

Bringing us all together

As a geographically dispersed organisation doing something in our HQ is great, and means a fair number of people see it, but the event was also support by a suite of internal communications highlighting as much as possible of the event. We also use these internal routes to highlight the more formal reviews of our science and engineering, such as our Annual Review.

So, that’s my pleasing problem and I hope an insight into what science and engineering is done in HSE, how we work across organisational boundaries to genuinely bring multidisciplinary approaches to bear and help HSE in Helping Great Britain work well.

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