Safety Innovation Video Series: The benefits of the Universities Safety and Health Association (USHA)


Safety Innovation Video Series: The benefits of the Universities Safety and Health Association (USHA)

Posted on 06 June 2024

​In our latest Safety Innovation video, we speak with Vincent King, Health and Safety Director at Cranfield University about the Universities Safety and Health Association (USHA), the benefits of joining the association, and some of the recent USHA projects Vincent has worked on.

I’m Vincent King, Health and Safety Director at Cranfield University. A bit about Cranfield. Cranfield University is a postgraduate specialist, postgraduate university, mainly aviation at its heart and it also has attached to it a Cranfield University airport as well.

What is the Universities Safety and Health Association (USHA)?

The Universities Safety and Health Association is really about the promotion of health and safety and best practise towards the higher education sector. The scale of the operation is we've got around 140 members within the UK, but we've also got a global reach, having universities with members in America, Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and that portfolio is expanding, so it really has a global reach. Its real objectives are about the promotion of excellence in health and safety management, strategic planning administration. It also is looking at opportunities for network exchange. We have a broad network of regional and national groups where we collaborate with individuals on a local basis, so it's about networking opportunities. We also develop a lot of resources that support practitioners, whether that's through webinars, conferences, or training materials. And we really do like to influence the policy makers, whether that's higher education employers or whether that's government as well. So, we like to influence policy making going forward.

Why would you encourage higher education organisations to join USHA?

Joining USHA is a fantastic opportunity to develop your career and also collaborate and meet with colleagues in the same sector. And when you become members of USHA, you get access to a wide range of materials, online resources, training packages designed by the sector for the sector. So, when you come into a very complex situation, there's a lot of ready-made tools for you to pick up and run with. We have a wide range of email networks for specialists, whether it's in fire, radiation, or a general network where you can find someone who has had that problem before, someone's had that solution. And you can ask questions and feedback and also share with one another as well, so it's a great community for that as well. This is some of the benefits and perhaps a lot of them is our conferencing facilities. We run conferences on an annual basis, whether that's the annual or the FI conference where some real high-profile speakers and colleagues come together to learn and share ideas and socialise and network. So, those are some of the benefits. And a lot of the materials that we do produce are designed by practitioners, but we also work with and get a lot of support from a real legal firm - Evershed Sutherlands, headed up by Paul Verrico and his team, and they do support a lot of the work we do which gives us a level of credibility. So, we're quite proud of the work we do and the materials we produce.

What recent projects have you been involved in at USHA?

What I will highlight is something that I was involved in recently, and it shows the model of what we can do and what we produce. Colleagues may recall when the Building Safety Act was coming in through the unfortunate incidents around Grenfell. That had a big impact, and it was also impacting on the sector. There was a lot of questions with not many answers, and we didn't know the scale of how it would impact. So, what we did as an association, we surveyed the sector to get a flavour of the impact of the legislation. How many high-rise, high-risk buildings did we have? And together with myself and the fire safety group, we worked with Evershed to produce a suite of documents so we understood the laws and how the accountable person would apply to a university setting, and we then produced a suite of documents that would enable us to understand and implement that in a seamless transition. All that was launched through a webinar with a Q and A panel with legal experts from Eversheds Sutherland, along with myself and the fire safety managers.

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