Health & Safety like PR seeks professional status

The Wardman Wire publishes a response to an earlier blog post from Director of Communications, Ruth Doyle, at the .

This is an interesting example of a pro-active response to blogging and addressing the issues raised in a post and discussion comments.

I also enjoyed Ruth’s reflections on the way in which the media represents health and safety.  Even more than this, she raises some interesting points about professional regulation, which relate to discussions on the same topic in Public Relations.

As the law currently stands, anyone, with no qualifications or experience whatsoever, can call themselves a health and safety adviser, or make decisions in the name of health and safety. The law requires all organisations to make sure they get “competent” advice on the subject, but gives no specific guidelines on what ”competence” is or looks like. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), as the enforcer, offers no clear guidance either.

The organisation launched a in May highlighting the importance of professional advice – see

Could we learn from this campaign which demands government and other stakeholders to:

  1. Clearly define ‘competence’ in health and safety
  2. Recognise and promote the specific national standards, linked to the right levels of health and safety qualification, experience and skill, for different sizes and types of business
  3. Make providing health and safety advice a legally regulated profession
  4. Turn directors’ health and safety responsibilities into explicit legal duties
  5. Make public reporting on health and safety mandatory for medium and large organisations
  6. Include health and safety in vocational, professional and business curricula

If we replace “health and safety” with public relations do we have the same needs? 

We can certainly recognise the elements of the campaign that promote continuing professional development, encourage employers and others to demand the best health and safety professionals for the job and encourage the media to get the best health and safety comment for their stories.

I also identified with Matt Wardman’s initial comment that

Even the Chief Executive of a County Council needs – if he is giving Health and Safety Advice outside his competence – a metaphorical blowtorch holding to his cojones. How many Health and Safety professionals would do it?

There seem lots of parallels here and if this makes sense for health and safety counsel, shouldn’t the same considerations apply for the profession and practice of PR too?

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

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