New HSE chief has engineering background


The Health & Safety Executive has named its new appointee as Chief Executive, Dr. Richard Judge. His role takes effect from November 2014. He replaces Kevin Myers, who has been acting Chief Executive since August 2013 but is leaving to take up a new role in New Zealand. Geoffrey Podger was the previous permanent incumbent.

HSE Chair Judith Hackitt made this comment on Judge’s appointment:

I am delighted to welcome Richard as our new chief executive and look forward to working with him. His valuable, considerable experience in both the public and private sector is a perfect fit for HSE, enabling us to take forward our commercial agenda whilst also ensuring we can build on our standing as a world-class regulator of workplace health and safety.

The new man arrives from a role as the Insolvency Service chief executive. But he is not by training an accountant: he has worked in science and technology sectors including:

  • Nuclear
  • Rail
  • Environmental

Construction health and safety consultants and other professionals in the building trades may be relieved to hear that he has some relevant experience: he is a Chartered Engineer, and is a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Unite criticises HSE

Inevitably the opportunity has been taken by some to call for change from HSE. Most notably, the Unite union’s national health and safety adviser Bud Hudspith has commented:

“We welcome the fact that the government has at last appointed a new chief executive for the HSE. Hopefully this will end the decision making paralysis at the top of the HSE.”
He specifically calls on Dr. Judge to reverse the recent controversial move to remove Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs) – such as the proposed scrapping of CDM Coordinators – and what the union sees as reduced guidance being given on health and safety at work.

Unite’s leaders also want him to address what they believe is the under-reporting of accidents at work and employment-related ill health. They refer to a “widespread manipulation of data to suggest that some companies are performing better on health and safety than they actually are.”

The actual job specification put out by the HSE said:

For this critical post, we require a proven leader with a demonstrable track record of delivering cultural change within complex organisations. It is expected that the candidate will also demonstrate an understanding of the role of regulation and management of risk within the modern work place. The candidate will also have the drive and ambition to identify, and realise, commercial opportunities.

The final sentence is enigmatic. There will be safety practitioners who see in this a reference to what is widely seen as a money-making scheme – the controversial Fees For Intervention (FFI).

Richard Judge himself said of his appointment:

This is a great opportunity to lead the executive of a renowned and respected regulator that will soon celebrate its 40th year. I look forward to working with my new HSE colleagues, and with everyone who has a stake in delivering further improvements in Britain’s health and safety performance.

He has commented in the past that he has worked in private and public sectors, and that he is used to the challenges of organisational change. It is likely that the HSE will provide such challenges, and we hope to report in future that he is making headway in addressing the issues raised by the Lofstedt Report and by Government itself.

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