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Gap 5: Survey compliance and quality improvement plan 2010–2013


1.         Survey control procedures apply to all statistical surveys of businesses or local authorities conducted by, or on behalf of, Government departments or agencies where there are potential costs incurred by those approached to participate.  The procedures recognise the benefits of surveys in providing the evidence base needed for sound decision-making by Government and others.  They seek to limit the costs of compliance with the surveys and to improve the quality of their outputs.

2.  Instructions issued by the Prime Minister’s office in 1999 aim to ensure that adequate control is maintained at a broad strategic level.  Each department and agency which undertakes statistical surveys is required to have procedures in place to limit the costs imposed by its surveys and to improve their statistical quality; and to prepare, and obtain Ministerial approval for an annual compliance and quality improvement plan on a rolling three year basis. This compliance and quality improvement plan sets out HSE’s proposed arrangements for the period 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2013.

Outputs of HSE surveys and their uses

3.         Surveys of businesses or local authorities are an important part of HSE’s research programmes.  They are always voluntary rather than statutory, and nearly always ad hoc rather than regular.  They provide knowledge required for three main purposes:

Survey activity and compliance costs for 2009/10

4.         Nineteen surveys were approved during 2009/10. The estimated total compliance cost to businesses and Local Authorities was £188 000,calculated by multiplying the number of individual respondents by the time each of them will take to respond, costed at a hourly rate depending on their management level. This is an increase on the historical low figure from 2008/09, however it is still a low figure compared to previous years.

5.         This comparatively low figure is partly because the replacement for the regular risk control and working condition surveys carried out in previous years, the Health and Safety System survey program, will not commence until 2011/12, subject to finance and final approval. The previous survey program had an annual compliance cost of around £140 000. 

6.         The chart below shows the compliance cost burden of HSE surveys each year since 2000/01.  Figures have been consistently well below the agreed ministerial ceiling of £600 000.  Moreover, HSE’s compliance represents a very minor part of the total annual compliance costs of government surveys, which was £121 million in 2008/09.A summary of the HSE surveys approved during the latest year is attached in the appendix.  No large surveys were undertaken and the majority were highly specific projects with low compliance costs. The survey with the greatest compliance cost was the evaluation of the impact of HSE’s guidance for company directors, with a cost of almost £60 000. The costs for this survey were high because all the recipients were directors, who incur the highest hourly cost rate.

HSE's total compliance cost from business surveys

Proposed survey activity and compliance costs during 2010/11

7.         Most of HSE’s surveys are ad hoc, one-off projects, unlike the regular surveys run by ONS and some other Government Departments.  The Prime Minister’s instructions recognise that “some Departments may have difficulties in planning for ad hoc surveys, particularly where there are uncertainties over policy requirements and dynamic operational needs” and state that “where firm information is not available, [the compliance plan] may be limited to known regular surveys and any agreed ceiling”.  The following paragraphs cover these two aspects.

8.         HSE’s survey activity in 2010/11 is expected to be historical low, with only three or four surveys of businesses and local authorities undertaken with an associated compliance cost around £60,000.  This is around one third of last year’s costs and well within HSE’s agreed ‘ceiling’ of £600,000.  This reduced survey activity in 2010/11 reflects the  effect of the uncertainty of budgets following the change in Government and consequent cost control and reduction measures.   

9.         The full evaluation of Construction (Design and Management) Regulations is taking place following the successful pilot study last year. The compliance costs for this are estimated at around £25 000. HSE is committed to an early review of CDM 2007 as a result of a Prayer Debate against the Regulations shortly after they came into force. The construction industry was actively involved in shaping the regulatory package of which these Regulations are a part, and therefore has a strongly vested interested in ensuring that they are fit for purpose. CDM 2007 aimed to simplify and clairify the responsibilities which arose under the earlier CDM 1994 Regulations which they replaced. Industry support for and participation in the evaluation to date has been strong

10.    The planned Health and Safety System survey program, which includes a survey of business and local authorities as one of the component surveys, has been deferred until 2011/12.  This survey, which is intended to run annually, will provide a set of indicators on the health and safety system and work practices in GB workplaces, covering topics such as health and safety leadership, competence, training and worker involvement and will address an important information gap.  HSE are also looking to enhance the survey to enable evaluation of outcomes from the Lord Young review.  This survey program replaces the earlier HSE risk control and working conditions surveys, though will have a substantially lower cost – the business compliance cost is estimated to be around £50,000, compared to £140,000 for the earlier surveys.

Proposed survey activity and compliance costs during 2011/12 – 2012/13

11.       Plans for 2011/12 and 2012/13 are tentative. The general level of survey activity is expected to remain at a low level and we do not anticipate any difficulties in remaining within the agreed compliance ceiling.  The only survey of which we are currently aware is the Health and Safety System survey programme, described above, which, subject to finance and final approval, will run annually from 2011.

Initiatives to improve quality and/or reduce compliance costs

12.       All HSE staff proposing to conduct surveys are required to show that good practice will be followed in designing, conducting and disseminating the results of the surveys.  All proposals with an expected compliance cost of over £10,000 need to be approved both by a senior official within the sponsor division and by a senior manager in HSE’s Analytical Services Division.  A database has been established to ensure that there is no unnecessary duplication of survey activity within HSE and to share best practice. 


Summary of HSE business surveys in 2009/10

Survey Title Estimated Compliance Cost (£)
Second evaluation of HSE guidance for directors 59,000
Assessment of compliance with Employers Liability Compulsory Insurance 33,000
HSE Stakeholder Survey 25,000
Preliminary review of workplace temperatures 10,000
The impact of the Control of Asbestos Regulations on electrical contractors 8,000
Impact of acute toxicity options in the review of the Seveso II Directive 8,000
Health and safety in public sector construction procurement 8,000
Health and safety practices in isocyanate spraying in Motor Vehicle Repair 7,000
Influence on dutyholder behaviour in the management of noise risks in SMEs 6,000
Cost effectiveness of bespoke LEV systems 6,000
Achievement of successful change using the supply chain process 5,000
HSE Competent Advice 3,000
Management of occupational health risks in medium sized organisations 2,000
Further review of workplace temperatures 2,000
Pilot study on evaluation of Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2,000
Qualitative research with employers to inform the worker involvement initiative 2,000
HGV slips & trips survey 2,000
LOLER guidance - evaluation in SMEs 1,000
Perceptions of LEV 1,000
Total 188,000
Updated 2011-06-23