Health and Safety in a Changing World

health and safety in a changing world book cover
  • Edited by Robert Dingwall and Shelley Frost
  • Price See publisher's website
  • Softback, 164 pages
  • ISBN 978-1-13-822521-3

Health and Safety in a Changing World (2017, Routledge) is the result of a major five-year research programme funded by IOSH.

Book available through Routledge.

When health and safety regulatory frameworks took their present form in the 1970s, they were seen as a triumph of welfare state intervention. Since then, as heavy industry has declined and office and retail employment have expanded, new ways of working have radically altered the context of health and safety policy. Many people have come to see health and safety interventions as an obstacle to innovation.

This book aims to address the changing context of health and safety policy, exploring concerns arising within the profession and the appropriate responses. Its manifesto for reform promises to frame the debate within the professional and policy community for a generation.

The result of a major research programme funded by IOSH, Health and Safety in a Changing World shows how health and safety policy has developed over time, how it is applied in practice and how best to make it fit-for-purpose in the 21st century. The book will be essential reading for professionals, practitioners and academic readers with an interest in the rapidly-evolving field of health and safety.


"This is a book about two visions. The first is the vision that every worker should finish their employment alive, in good health, and with the same number of limbs, digits or organs that they started with. This is a goal for every shift and for a working life as a whole. Who could possibly disagree with this? The means by which it can be achieved, however, have been increasingly questioned, in the UK and elsewhere, over the last 20 years. Worker health and safety have come to be seen as nice to have but, perhaps, something of a luxury in hard economic times. Looking after a workforce is not an investment in human capital but an overhead cost that reduces margins and business competitiveness. Although it may be difficult to argue against the principle that employment should not be a source of death, disease or disability, the institutions that give effect to this can be challenged. Rules and regulations can be characterized as too prescriptive and disproportionate. Enforcement can be depicted as petty and lacking in common sense. A framework devised for the industrial economy of the 1970s may be ill-adapted to the conditions of the service economy of the early twenty-first century.

The second vision arises in response to this challenge. The leading international institution representing health and safety professionals accepts the need to reimagine the profession’s mission to keep in step with social and economic change. How can workers be kept safe and healthy when large-scale manufacturing organizations in heavy industries have given way to loosely connected networks of small and medium-sized enterprises engaged in light industry and service provision? What are the current hazards of employment? Is the regulatory system fit for purpose? What is the profession’s role in this new environment? What skills will its members need to prepare them for work in years to come? The crisis of confidence in occupational safety and health is also a moment of opportunity, to define and create the professionals who will continue to serve as advocates for the lives and well-being of workers in the UK and around the world.

In order to inform that process, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) decided, in 2008, to make its largest ever investment in research, through a programme of studies ‘Health and Safety in a Changing World’. This Introduction describes the background to the programme and introduces the projects. It is followed by six chapters, contributed by the project teams, describing each in more depth. Finally, the Conclusion discusses what this work might mean for the profession and how IOSH itself has begun to respond."