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Ten years on, the echoes of Simon's death are deafening

Geoffrey Podger, HSE's Chief Executive, responds

Libby Brooks (Ten years on, the echoes of Simon's death are deafening. 21/4/08) is absolutely right to express concern about deaths in the workplace; however it is neither fair nor productive to blame HSE as the regulator.

The article was significantly misleading regarding the number of prosecutions brought by HSE. We do not bring manslaughter cases. HSE investigates all fatalities and will prosecute where there is sufficient evidence to do so. This happens in approximately 40% of cases. There are many legitimate reasons why a fatality might not lead to a prosecution.

HSE already works with the Police on workplace deaths and has done for some time. There has been no change in the position. The Police always have primacy initially as their role is to investigate the most serious criminal offences such as murder, manslaughter and corporate manslaughter. If, after an initial investigation, the evidence does not suggest such an offence has been committed, the Police hand the lead for the investigation over to the relevant enforcing authority.

Whilst any work-related death is one too many, in judging the effectiveness of the British system of regulation we can hardly ignore the fact that we have the lowest fatal accident rate of any major EU country. What matters is outcomes, not rhetoric.

Finally, we must not forget that health and safety law quite properly places responsibility for managing workplace risks on those - that is, employers and other duty holders - who create the hazards.

Geoffrey Podger
Chief Executive
Health and Safety Executive
2 Southwark Bridge
London SE1 9HS

Updated 2009-04-27