10 September 2014

HSE51: Regulation of Health and Safety at Work

The HSE has recently published a document (‘HSE51’) explaining the main features of the regulatory approach taken by HSE and local authorities (LAs) to improve standards in health and safety performance.

We summarise it as follows:

In Great Britain, the primary responsibility for managing health and safety risks to workers and others lies with the business or the person that creates the risk. The HSE seeks to ensure that businesses manage these risks effectively and proportionately by intervening to influence, encourage and advise them and, where necessary, to hold to account those who fail to meet their responsibilities.

The HSE is responsible for developing health and safety strategies for specific industry sectors, taking into account factors such as the size and demographics of the industry, death, injury and ill-health rates and potential future risks, determining where to intervene and how to do so most appropriately.

HSE interventions include:

  1. Influencing and engaging with industry stakeholders such as trade associations, professional bodies, trade unions and other organisations that represent workers;
  2. Influencing large employers by encouraging them to make continuous improvements as part of their corporate governance, or using their influence to improve standards further down the supply chain;
  3. Creating knowledge and awareness of health and safety risks and encouraging changes in behaviour by providing businesses with information via web-based tools, topic or industry-specific guidance, Approved Codes of Practice and Safety and Health Awareness Days;
  4. Promoting proportionate health and safety and discouraging unnecessarily risk-averse behaviour through the Independent Regulatory Challenge Panel and the Myth Busters Challenge Panel;
  5. Inspection of major hazard industries and those subject to approval of a safety case or report or where evidence suggests that heath and safety is a significant concern;
  6. Selective investigation of accidents, incidents, cases of ill-health and complaints raised by workers or members of the public;
  7. Enforcement to hold to account those who fail to meet their obligations;
  8. Engaging with the workforce to ensure that they are adequately consulted on health and safety or informed about any actions their employers are required to take; and
  9. Working with other regulators and government departments with overlapping functions, such as Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the Environment Agency and the Civil Aviation Authority.

This document explains the main features of the HSE’s regulatory approach, including the interventions used, and provides useful links to further information on areas such as the LA Enforcement Code, national and sector-specific strategies, the legal status of Approved Codes of Practice, guidance for small and medium-sized enterprises and how to complain about incorrect or disproportionate advice issued by regulators or non-regulators.

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