On the 1st February my colleague Matthew and I went to the annual Renewable UK Health and Safety conference in Manchester. It was an excellent, informative and extremely cold couple of days!
One of the speeches that still resonates with me after the conference, was the Opening Address of Maria McCafery. She spoke about how renewable energies are moving from ‘alternative’ to ‘mainstream’ energy sources. We the UK are on a cusp of a carbon revolution. She spoke about how, in a rapidly increasing market, where we are employing increasing numbers of new workers that it will be hard to maintain a safe working environment. This to me highlights the importance of health and safety within wind energy, as for this industry to succeed; we need excellent safety professionals to drive it forward. This is especially important, as Maria pointed out, to combat anti-wind protesters. As illustrated by the coverage of Scotland’s severe winds this winter, when the media is involved, one incident hurts the reputation of the entire wind industry.
Following this the keynote address of Judith Hackitt of the Health and Safety Executive, highlighted an area which I find particularly important. Judith spoke about how the rapid expansion of the renewables industry is leading to a skills gap. This is for me, working in recruitment, a poignant statement. As a new emerging market there is only a select number of people in the UK that have previous experience within the renewables industry, where will new recruits come from as the skills requirement increases? Will it be a case of training up graduates, or looking for people from the oil & gas, construction or civil engineering industries? These are the questions that renewables companies are going to have to start asking themselves as without a specific recruitment plan, companies may find it hard to secure a good health and safety culture and high quality health and safety professionals.
Following this, I attended the Design and Project Management session, Leadership & Engagement and What’s Next for Renewables. I found these sessions extremely informative, and have gained a huge amount of knowledge of the renewable industry, and the part health and safety plays within this industry.
I would like to say congratulations to E.ON Climate & Renewables for winning The Crown Estate Renewable Energy Health & Safety Award for 2012. This was for their shallow gas case study at the Rampion offshore project. Also, another congratulations to Mainstream Renewable Power for their innovation in their Hornsea Met Mast project, and for continuing to strive for best practice.
I look forward to the next conference, it has definitely been one of the professional highlights of my year to date.