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Vote of confidence in HSE
Date of Issue: Thursday, 30 January, 2014
In line with other Government agencies, HSE has been subject to its first Triennial Review, which was carried out by a team led by Martin Temple. The review looked at two questions, namely whether there was still a need for such an ‘arm’s length’ body and secondly, whether the current format is the most efficient.
As most readers will know, in 1974 the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act established the Health & Safety Commission, the policy body, and the Health & Safety Executive, the enforcement arm. These were later merged into a single HSE. A key part of the activities of HSE has been the advisory role it has played and this came under the microscope in this review.
Once again, in line with the conclusion of both Lord Young’s & Prof. Löfstedt’s reports it found that there was a continued need for such a body and that overall, the current format worked well. The review also found that ‘in most respects’ good governance procedures were in place. However, the review felt that recent budget cuts are unlikely to be reversed but that these had had a worrying result.
As we all know by now, to reduce the shortfall in funding, HSE has introduced its Fee For Intervention programme where organisations are charged for any HSE action following a ‘material’ breach of regulations. This does not only apply to prohibition or improvement notices but to any visits and resulting correspondence. This was a change which caused IIRSM concern and the Review found that business viewed this as a “fine” and felt that this was a “dangerous” model to adopt. It would make it less likely that businesses would involve HSE in an advisory role, which would be a worrying trend from the perspective of injury & ill-health prevention.
A number of recommendations have been made to be considered as part of the review of FFI, including looking at alternative sources of funding and investigating whether there has been any detrimental effect on the way inspectors carry out their activities and on the downward trend in accident frequencies. Let’s hope that this does not occur.
Barry Holt, Director of Policy & Research, IIRSM