When we think of health and safety legislation, the first date that sticks in most of our minds is 1974 – the year The Health and Safety at Work etc 1974 Act was published. While there’s no denying the fundamental importance of that Parliamentary Act, the history of health and safety stretches back a little further… in fact, all the way to 1772 BC!
Believe it or not, the Ancient Babylonians are widely regarded as the first civilisation to legislate to provide safer working practices, with Law 229 of The Code of Hammurabi foreshadowing today’s modern construction laws:
‘If a builder build a house for a man and do not make its construction firm, and the house which he has built collapse and cause the death of the owner of the house, that builder shall be put to death.’
While we might smile at the primitive phrasing (and Old Testament-style penalties!), there is nevertheless a real understanding of the importance of safe working practices – and recognition that, just like today, the implementation of these practices is a matter of life and death.
Health and safety landmarks
Of course things have moved on considerably since Hammurabi, and since then there have been a deluge of memorable dates, from 1833, which saw the introduction of the Factory Act, which amongst other things prohibited children under nine from working in factories, to the 2007 Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, which states that company directors can be held criminally responsible for negligence leading to accidents.
However, to these other health and safety milestones, another must be added – that is 1956; The year in which the late Sir George Earle donated a Victorian inkstand trophy to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, signalling the beginning of the RoSPA Awards – the world’s first and longest running health and safety awards scheme.
Of course, the RoSPA Awards scheme that began almost sixty years ago was a very different affair to the glamorous, star-studded affair we have today. Even by 1981, which marked the scheme’s Silver Jubilee, only a total of 42 awards were actually handed out! In fact, it wasn’t until the 1990s that the scheme began to resemble its modern form, with the hallowed Gold and President’s Awards presented for the very first time in 1991 and the Scottish RoSPA Awards ceremony being launched in 1997.
The pinnacle of ‘health and safety’
Today the RoSPA Awards occupy a unique and prestigious place in the health and safety industry’s calendar, with the event now encompassing not only the exciting Awards ceremonies, but also a glamorous gala dinner. Last year alone a staggering 1974 entrants competed for the chance to be recognised as a RoSPA winner, with over 3500 people attending the events in total.
Of course, it’s not hard to see the appeal of the scheme; not only does it motivate staff and provide the opportunity to celebrate your organisation’s success, but many winners return year on year to enjoy a fantastic team day out at the prestigious ceremonies. Entry is also proven to have lasting benefits long after the final award has been handed out, as winning sends out a clear message to clients and competitors that you’re serious about health and safety. The publicity your involvement generates can even help to win new business, essential in this tough economic climate.
Coming to the capital
2014 represents another historic date for health and safety – it is the year that the RoSPA Awards are coming to London!
As well as the ceremonies in Glasgow and Birmingham, this year we are excited to announce that on June 17, 2014 a ceremony and gala dinner will be held at the prestigious ExCel centre in London, providing an opportunity for health and safety professionals in the south to celebrate their achievements… and take their place in history!
Registration for the 2014 RoSPA Awards is now open. Register by October 30 to receive an ‘early bird’ discount on your entry.
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*Give or take a millennia.
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