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Speech for Inside Government – 11 September 2014

Judith Hackitt CBE, HSE Chair

Delivering a reformed Health and safety system

Good morning. Thank you for inviting me to speak here today. I would like to bring you up to date with how the Health and Safety Executive is taking forward some of those recommendations from the triennial review and to bring you up to date with the steps we are taking to develop the commercial potential of our knowledge and expertise.

As you will hear, HSE has big plans for the future but I want to say up front that our dedication to promoting effective and proportionate risk management and enforcing the law will not be changing.  In addition, there are promising signs the tide is turning on the way health and safety is perceived with the Mythbusters Challenge panel continuing to expose the real reasons behind the myths.

The Triennial Review has affirmed much of what we do but also identified new opportunities for the future as well as some fine-tuning that we need to do. We have appointed a new Chief Executive and two new Board members with skills sets that match the recommendations in the triennial review.   

There is a need for us all to continually adapt – to look at our environment, our performance, our technologies and so on and make sure that we are reflecting this is in our policies and practices as regulators, businesses and professional associations. Only by doing this will we both learn from the past and ensure continued improvement and prosperity for the future.


We have set a new strategic direction for HSE as an organisation, HSE2020.  It is our strategy for keeping HSE a modern, effective independent regulator and provides HSE with a roadmap to maintaining its position as a world class, modern regulator whilst also pursuing new opportunities.

There are three overarching themes to the HSE2020 strategy. These are to:

We are not only making these changes in light of the triennial review, we are making them because they make good business sense. Extending the scope of what we do as a regulator can provide the means to keep investing in our regulatory functions and creates a sustainable, long-term business model that is less reliant on taxpayer funding.  So by transforming the way HSE operates to make the most of its many strengths and successes we will be benefiting HSE and Great Britain as a whole.


I want to be clear, and if you have heard me talk about commercialisation before you will have heard this, this is not privatisation, it is commercialisation of our knowledge and expertise alongside continuing our role as a regulator and public body. We are very clear on this and the Minister is very clear on this.

We are seeking to develop commercial opportunities where they contribute to improved management and control of risk.

Why are we doing this? This is not just to bridge a funding gap, it is the right thing to do.

By offering a greater range of products and services to help British businesses manage occupational health and safety risks we will be doing more to support workplace health and safety performance and business productivity here in Britain.   

What’s more, by sharing the success of our regulatory approach abroad we will be supporting higher standards of protection for workers the world over.  We will also be projecting British influence abroad and providing a competitive advantage to British businesses who are already familiar with operating under our regulatory framework.

By using commercialisation as an opportunity to share our approach and expertise we are creating a system from which everyone can benefit.

HSL Diagram

Lots of people are aware of the existence of HSL as an agency of HSE, but few have a really good understanding of the scope of the work that HSL carries out and how it is intricately linked to the work of HSE. It is the combination of the 2 organisations which gives us a unique capability. HSL provides forensic expertise to HSE in the investigation of incidents. That science based evidence is often crucial to bringing successful enforcement action. But that science based knowledge also enables the whole organisation to learn and that learning goes into the development of new policies and new/revised regulation.

HSE’s frontline inspectors identify challenges which exist in workplaces in many different sectors – ranging from dust and exhaust gas ventilation design, infection control and ergonomics – all areas where we can and do commission research and scientific solutions from HSL – all of this work is aimed at prevention not investigation after an incident. It is this complex mix of interactions between HSE and HSL which creates a unique knowledge and expertise base which we are now looking at ways to share more broadly and on a commercial basis.

Land use planning

So what will this look like? Well, much of this is work in progress although there are some significant examples already up and running.  I thought I would give you a couple of examples of the sort of thing we have already developed.

One such example is the knowledge and expertise we have related to land use planning around major hazards sites. We already have a role as a statutory consultee when developments are planned close to a large COMAH site. But our belief is that there is a more valuable and more constructive role that we can play earlier in the process that is likely to lead to better outcomes for everyone.

HSE are currently consulted fairly late on in the planning process when developments are in an advanced stage. If we have issues or questions this can cause delays in getting the development built. So we are looking at offering developers the chance to buy our technical input early on in the process so issues can be addressed early on, which will hopefully avoid any delays further down the line, accelerate the approvals process and reposition our knowledge input as part of the solution rather than a late stage block in the process.

Working globally

HSE has an excellent global reputation as a world-class regulator. Other countries want to emulate our system. Recently I have been in UAE and Singapore to discuss potential opportunities to support their work. It is right that we should offer our advice and experience to help and support other countries in developing their systems.

There is interest in much of what we do, but 2 areas in particular attract interest wherever I visit – one is to better understand the improvements we have made in construction safety in the UK and the other is to understand what makes our regulatory regime for major hazards so effective. No one would argue that it is important for us to share what we have learned in these areas with others because of the potential to save lives in other parts of the world. Access to our guidance via the web is free to anyone around the world and should remain so, but it takes more than a re-print of guidance and ACOPs to set up an effective health and safety regime. It is that know how that has a value. And it is also right that we should seek to charge for this and to reinvest this income in maintaining our regulatory capability here, at home.

We believe this is an important and exciting role for us to take on – and one which can in turn deliver benefit for British business, if the safety regime in other parts of the world is one which is familiar.

We will of course continue to support the Government with meeting international obligations both in the EU and the wider world. For example, at present we are liaising with colleagues in the Department for International Development and the International Labour Organization (ILO) about how we can assist the ILO in Bangladesh with its training programme for labour inspectors, taking place against the backdrop of improving conditions following the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in 2013.  

So what else is happening?

Fee for intervention

No presentation from me would be complete without an update on fee for intervention. The scheme has been in place for almost 2 years now and I have shared as part of previous presentations some data on how many invoices have been raised and the very small number which have been challenged.

When we launched the scheme we made a commitment that we would review how it was working and one of the key recommendations of the Triennial review also called for us to look at some specific aspects of the impact on FFI so in January of this year the Board of HSE agreed to widen the scope of the review. The scheme has now been reviewed by an independent panel who have concluded that whilst there are some challenges with FFI, it has been effective in achieving the policy aim of shifting cost from the public purse to those who break health and safety laws. The review recognises that the introduction of the scheme has been challenging for HSE and for some dutyholders but is also clear that this is by no means as bad as some feared.

The report has been reviewed and accepted by the Board of HSE and by our minister. The overall conclusion is that the scheme is effective and should remain in place and that there is no case for phasing out FFI.

Asbestos campaign

Our next Asbestos campaign is due to launch later this year. Whilst building on our previous, successful Hidden Killer campaign, we will employ a different approach when the new campaign kicks off. HSE has carried out up-to-date audience research to gather solid evidence on which to develop the campaign strategy.

We now have crucial intelligence on;

HSE will adopt some new ‘behaviours’ to innovate with the campaign including;

This new campaign is about much more than just raising awareness it will focus on changing behaviours – helping trades people adopt safe ways of dealing with asbestos.

Local Authority unit

Local Authorities have an important part to play in ensuring the effective and proportionate management of risks by businesses, and their interventions should be targeted on higher risk activities, businesses and sectors.

The LA National Code was developed following public consultation and provides a principle-based framework that recognises the respective roles of business and the regulator in the management of risk. It sets out a risk-based approach to be followed by LA regulators that will provide business with a consistency of approach.

Data collected after the first year shows a clear national shift in the focus of LA regulatory resources – with improvement in the targeting of health and safety inspections – ensuring that local authority checks are more focused on serious risks and poor performers.

This approach has also increased the proportion of resources used for advisory visits, allowing LAs to contribute to the delivering the growth agenda.

One of the Triennial review recommendations was for HSE to review the Code and HSE is currently seeking views from LAs and Businesses as part of that process. 

On line tool

We have made significant progress in overhauling all of our guidance and regulations to make them up to date, relevant and accessible. Over eighty percent of health and safety regulations are either being improved or removed - but we are certainly not throwing away the good stuff. We need regulations to protect people at work: but it is important to strike the right balance, and stay relevant to today’s workplaces and workforces.

HSE created specific tools and guidance for the SME audience. These include Health and Safety Made Simple (HSMS), the Health and Safety Toolbox, Online Risk Assessments for low risk shops and offices, Example Risk Assessments covering a range of industries, and a combined Health and Safety Policy and Risk Assessment template.

We worked with a creative agency to develop a clear, easily recognisable brand, ‘H&S ABC: an easy guide to health and safety’, to increase awareness and use of the package of guidance and tools.

The brand has been applied to relevant HSE WebPages, publications and leaflets, and a specific H&S ABC home page signposts the guidance and tools. A short animation was also produced to promote the brand, and is available both on our website and on YouTube. The brand was developed with input from our target audience.

We have worked with a number of partners, commercial and trade, to raise awareness of the H&S ABC. To date we estimate that this partnership marketing approach has helped us to reach nearly 300,000 small businesses.

Concluding remarks

As you have heard, HSE is changing but our commitment to regulation and reducing injury and ill-health is not.  We are a world-class regulator and continuing to evolve as an organisation is an essential component of that.  We have a wealth of knowledge and expertise which has a value and people want to continue to have access to that knowledge and advice. We need to respond but in a way that ensures we remain fit for purpose for the 21st century.

We have a health and safety system which others want to emulate and we should help them to do that.

But for Britain to continue to be one of the safest and healthiest places to work in the world, we need to continuously improve and modernise our approaches to ensure they remain fit for purpose, whilst maintaining the high standards of protection.  I have highlighted for you today some of the new approaches we are taking to our regulatory role. We, just like you in all of your businesses, need to continue to look hard at what we do and find ways to do it better and smarter. That is why we are heading in this direction, it is the right thing to do – not just for HSE but to maintain our world class system which is so effective at preventing death, injury and ill health in your workplaces.

Thank you.

Updated 2014-11-23