Bill Callaghan, chairman of the Health and Safety Commission, today challenged the footwear and knitting industries to develop health and safety improvement targets for their own sectors. Speaking to a combined conference for the two industries in Leicester, he said: "The footwear and knitting trades have suffered heavy job losses recently, and I very much understand that the priority is to ensure a competitive industry. But let there be no mistake, health and safety is a competitiveness issue - a healthy workforce is a productive workforce. The British economy loses £18bn a year through health and safety failures, while the cost in terms of human suffering is impossible to measure."My challenge to the knitwear and footwear industries is for employers, workers and unions to work together to ensure higher standards of health and safety in the workplace. This applies to every firm within a sector - small and large - and for the sector as a whole. I am encouraged to see that many firms take their responsibilities seriously - and there is a role for larger companies to act as good neighbours in order to spread good practice to the many smaller ones within the trade."I would like to see the sector achieve lasting improvements by developing its own targets and contribute to national targets for cutting ill-health and injuries at work."