Caution expressed at push for further commercialisation of HSE

In its response to the Temple report on the triennial review of the HSE, the Government has said that it wants HSE to be more commercial in ‘outlook and delivery.’

In a positive endorsement of its work and global reputation, the Government responded to the wide-ranging review of HSE by highlighting the commercial opportunities that it believed needs to be explored.   

Alex Botha, Chief Executive of the British Safety Council, said: “Overall, we are pleased that the Government response endorses the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at every level: there is a need for the functions that HSE delivers, that it should remain an arms length body and that it is run according to the principles of good governance. These views reflect that of our members who have great confidence in the integrity and effectiveness of HSE and the UK’s regulatory regime.

“Whilst we agree that there is scope for HSE to develop commercial opportunities, we would like to repeat concerns we’ve raised before that commercialisation can compromise the independence of the HSE and affect its relationship with those responsible for health and safety. In particular the British Safety Council is concerned that commercialising a wider range of services may confuse the role that HSE adopts with those it regulates.

“We recognise that HSE has to have the resources to do its work and in financially straightened times it is important that HSE delivers value for money to the taxpayer. To this end we welcome the move to strengthen the commercial acumen of HSE Board members. However, given the concern expressed by a number of our members about the impact of Fee for Intervention (FFI) on their relationship with HSE, the British Safety Council would like a close eye kept on whether HSE’s relationships with those responsible for health and safety is affected by its new approach. In particular we will assess the impact on our members. HSE needs to consider the impact of greater commercial activity on its role as part of any proposals it puts to the Minister. 

“We now need time for the reforms of the past four years to bed down and importantly give business certainty as to the regulatory environment for health and safety. We hope to meet with Mike Penning MP, Minister of State for Disabled People, shortly to discuss the Government’s response, including the role that the British Safety Council and its corporate members can play in helping take forward key recommendations.”

The Triennial Review

The Triennial Review of HSE in 2013 was led by Martin Temple on behalf of DWP. The scope of the review was to examine whether the functions of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) remain necessary and whether delivery by an arms length body like HSE is the most efficient and effective way to deliver these functions. Further, the review examined whether the way HSE is run complies with the principles of good governance. The British Safety Council’s Chair Lynda Armstrong and Chief Executive Alex Botha met with Martin Temple to share their thoughts and the views of our members. The Review was published on 9 January 2014.

The Government response to the Triennial Review was published on 26 July 2014. In other announcements, Fee for Intervention (FFI) is being examined and HSE will report back in July 2014, though the Government says it remains committed to the underlying principle that those in breach of health and safety laws should bear the related costs. The British Safety Council stands ready to submit views on behalf of its members on FFI should there be a call for evidence.

Guidance is being reviewed and tested to ensure it provides concise, straightforward advice. HSE has been asked to review its interfaces with other regulators by end 2015; including the level of support that HSE gives to the Care Quality Commission. A proposal by Martin Temple to move DECC’s Offshore Oil and Gas Environment Unit into HSE is rejected, though a new competent authority will be overseen by senior officials from DECC and HSE.

The report of the Triennial Review of HSE and the Government’s response can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/triennial-review-report-health-and-safety-executive-2014