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How HSE meets the obligations in the statutory Regulators’ Compliance Code

Introduction

HSE already has policies in place which ensure we carry out our regulatory responsibilities, including firm but fair enforcement, in accordance with the principles of good regulation and the provisions of the Regulators’ Compliance Code.

Our key high-level policies that enable us to meet the obligations in the Code are:

These high-level policies are supplemented in many contexts by other policies and by more detailed guidance and operational procedures.

The Regulators' Compliance Code is a statutory code of practice intended to encourage regulators to achieve their objectives in a way that minimises the burdens on business.  The purpose of the Code is to embed a risk-based, proportionate, targeted and flexible approach to regulatory inspection and enforcement among the regulators to which it applies.  This approach will ensure that regulators are efficient and effective in their work, without imposing unnecessary burdens on those they regulate.

HSE is committed to better, smarter regulation. Since the early 1990s, we have followed the five principles of good regulation: proportionality, accountability, consistency, transparency and targeting.  These principles are integral to our Enforcement Policy Statement, which formed the basis of the Government’s voluntary Enforcement Concordat introduced in March 1998. They are now enshrined in the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006, and regulators must have regard to them when exercising a regulatory function, including taking enforcement action.

From 6 April 2008 regulators such as HSE must also have regard to the provisions of the Regulators’ Compliance Code.  The Code applies when regulators determine their general policies or principles about how they exercise their regulatory functions, and when they set standards or give general guidance.  It does not apply at the regulatory decision-making level - ie not to individual enforcement decisions.  The Code is based on the seven principles of inspection and enforcement identified in the Philip Hampton report "Reducing administrative burdens: effective inspection and enforcement".

Specific obligations of the Code

Below is a summary of how, by applying our key policies, we ensure that we already act in accordance with the obligations of the Code.  Links from each heading show in more detail how the policies relate to the Code’s requirements.  These short statements reflect the findings of the National Audit Office/Better Regulation Executive Review of HSE’s progress in implementing the recommendations of the Hampton report: Reducing administrative burdens: effective inspection and enforcement.

Economic progress

We seek to publicise the positive economic benefits of effective health and safety management.

Risk assessment

Our focus is on tackling the key causes of injury and ill-health at work.  Our regulatory activities are risk-based, informed by evidence about what industries and activities pose the greatest risk to health and safety outcomes.  We have used this evidence-base to build strategic programmes to target areas of highest risk.

Advice and guidance

We put a lot of emphasis on providing advice and guidance that is clear and concise, and this process is particularly effective when we work with business stakeholders.

Inspections and other visits

Surveys show business has a positive view of HSE inspection.  We want to maintain and improve the way we work - for example, in 2007/08 we are conducting a ‘Fine Tuning’ review of our programmes to improve the use of intelligence.  HSE and local authority inspectors are involved in various initiatives to ensure a joined-up approach and allow greater flexibility in resourcing.

Information requirements

We have rationalised the data returns required from business, and we are ‘e-enabling’ our stock of existing forms.

Compliance and enforcement actions

We have developed tools and policies which encourage a consistent and proportionate approach to enforcement.  Research shows business generally views HSE enforcement as fair.

Accountability

HSE is a transparent and accountable regulator.  We have good internal challenge processes in place to scrutinise new regulation and policies.  We undertake robust Impact Assessments, consult effectively with business groups, and consider using alternative regulatory approaches such as educational campaigns.  We review regulation after it has been implemented.

The Code explicitly recognises that there will be circumstances where its provisions need not be followed because they are either not relevant or are outweighed by other relevant considerations.  This guide provides examples of the limited circumstances HSE considers fall into this category. 

The Code also makes clear that the duty to have regard to the Code is subject to any other legal requirement affecting the exercise of the regulatory function, including EC law obligations.

Supporting economic progress

Hampton Principle: Regulators should recognise that a key element of their activity will be to allow, or even encourage, economic progress and only to intervene when there is a clear case for protection.

We seek to publicise the positive economic benefits of effective health and safety management.
Our key high-level policies reflect this Hampton principle by committing us to:

Strategy for workplace health and safety in Great Britain to 2010 and beyond

Sensible Health and Safety at Work: the Regulatory methods used in Great Britain

Enforcement Policy Statement

Reducing risks, protecting people - HSE's decision-making process

and Policy Statement - Our approach to permissioning regimes

Circumstances where the Code’s provisions are either not relevant or are outweighed by other relevant considerations

In carrying out its statutory functions in particular cases, HSE must take account of interpretations of its duties given by the courts -

"… the duty of enforcing authorities, whether inspectors or local authorities, is to have regard to the health and safety of members of the public. If steps which they think should be taken to improve safety would have an adverse economic effect on the business enterprise in question, so be it." (Harris v HSE & Evans)

Therefore HSE cannot set policies that would rule out taking action in accordance with such interpretations.

Risk assessment

Hampton Principle: Regulators, and the regulatory system as a whole, should use comprehensive risk assessment to concentrate resources in the areas that need them most. 

Our focus is on tackling the key causes of injury and ill-health at work.  Our regulatory activities are risk-based, informed by evidence about what industries and activities pose the greatest risk to health and safety outcomes.  We have used this evidence-base to build strategic programmes to target areas of highest risk.

However, we interpret this requirement as also continuing to allow HSE and other parts of Government to apply the precautionary principle in the rare circumstances where there is good reason to believe that people will be harmed, but where the level of scientific uncertainty is such that the risk cannot be assessed with confidence.

Our high-level policies and principles reflect this Hampton principle by committing us to:

Strategy for workplace health and safety in Great Britain to 2010 and beyond

Sensible Health and Safety at Work: the regulatory methods used in Great Britain

Enforcement Policy Statement

Reducing risks, protecting people - HSE’s decision-making process

An example of how our regulatory efforts and resources are targeted where they would be most effective is our Strategic Programme Fit for Work, Fit for Life, Fit for Tomorrow (Fit3), which enables HSE to work in partnership with local authorities to:

Circumstances where the Code’s provisions are either not relevant or are outweighed by other relevant considerations

For certain very high hazard sites an important regulatory outcome is public assurance that risks are properly controlled.  Therefore these sites will receive regular inspections so that enforcing authorities can give this public assurance. (Enforcement Policy Statement)

Advice and guidance

Hampton Principle: Regulators should provide authoritative, accessible advice easily and cheaply.

We put a lot of emphasis on providing advice and guidance that is clear and concise, and this process is particularly effective when we work with business stakeholders.

Our high-level policies and principles reflect this Hampton principle by committing us to:

Sensible Health and Safety at Work: the regulatory methods used in Great Britain

Enforcement Policy Statement

HSE statement on providing accessible advice and support

Inspections and other visits

Hampton Principle: No inspection should take place without a reason.

Our understanding is that the Code requirement to have regard to this principle when determining general policies or principles should not hamper our ability to mount targeted proactive inspection campaigns - such as in construction - which have proved effective in focusing attention on poor standards.

Surveys show business has a positive view of HSE inspection.  We want to maintain and improve the way we work and will continue to review our programmes to improve the use of intelligence. HSE and local authority inspectors are involved in various initiatives to ensure a joined-up approach and allow greater flexibility in resourcing.

Our high-level policies and principles reflect this Hampton principle by committing us to:

Strategy for workplace health and safety in Great Britain to 2010 and beyond

Sensible Health and Safety at Work: the regulatory methods used in Great Britain

Enforcement Policy Statement

Circumstances where the Code’s provisions are either not relevant or are outweighed by other relevant considerations

On the principle of no inspection without a reason, an important focus of effort for the major hazards sector (eg nuclear and chemical industries) is in preventing rare but catastrophic events.  We all recognise the need for public reassurance and this is a fundamental consideration for major hazards inspection regimes.

We interpret the requirement to collaborate with other regulators as allowing a common-sense and fit-for-purpose approach: it does not seek to have general policies requiring staff to collaborate with non-homogeneous regulators, otherwise the diversion of resources would be disproportionate.

Information requirements

Hampton Principle: Businesses should not have to give unnecessary information or give the same piece of information twice.

We have rationalised the data returns required from business, and we are ‘e-enabling’ our stock of existing forms.

We are currently updating our policies on information gathering.  Examples of how we currently organise our regulatory work so as to rationalise information requirements and minimise burdens, in accordance with this Hampton principle, include:

Impact Assessment - the Government’s Impact Assessment process builds on our long-standing approach to cost benefit analysis in policy development.

The Impact Assessment procedure provides a continuous process to help policy makers fully think through and understand the consequences of possible Government interventions (whether domestic or internationally based).  This process includes analysis of the costs and benefits of potential information requirements on regulated entities.

A long-standing Forms Gatekeeper function in our Business Efficiency Unit whose role is to support HSE and Government policy objectives by maintaining measures to:

HSE reports to Ministers annually on the number of forms removed and issued.

All HSE Forms are currently available on HSE’s web site in pdf format providing a “fill-in and print” or fill-in and e-mail capability.  A programme of work is currently underway to provide enhanced features to the forms.  This will include auto-population of user profile details where appropriate and direct update to HSE’s internal databases.

Compliance and enforcement actions

Hampton Principle: The few businesses that persistently break regulations should be identified quickly and face proportionate and meaningful sanctions.

We have developed tools and policies which encourage a consistent and proportionate approach to enforcement.  Research shows business generally views HSE enforcement as fair.

Our high-level policies and principles, whilst recognising that it is for the courts to decide whether someone is guilty and what penalty, if any, to impose on conviction, reflect this Hampton principle by committing us to:

Strategy for workplace health and safety in Great Britain to 2010 and beyond

Sensible Health and Safety at Work: the regulatory methods used in Great Britain

Enforcement Policy Statement

HSE Position Statement on ‘Rogues’

“In line with our published commitment to seek heavier penalties for ‘rogue’ businesses, inspectors focus their investigations on appropriate evidence collection. Victim impact statements are often included and inspectors routinely highlight aggravating features to ensure the courts are properly informed before sentencing and issuing fines. The Work Related Deaths Protocol also supports joint working with the police in cases involving fatalities.”

Accountability

Hampton Principle: Regulators should be accountable for the efficiency and effectiveness of their activities, while remaining independent in the decisions they take.

HSE is a transparent and accountable regulator. We have good internal challenge processes in place to scrutinise new regulation and policies.  We undertake robust Impact Assessments, consult effectively with business groups, and consider using alternative regulatory approaches such as educational campaigns. We review regulation after it has been implemented. Our high-level policies and principles reflect this Hampton principle by committing us to:

Strategy for workplace health and safety in Great Britain to 2010 and beyond

Sensible Health and Safety at Work: the regulatory methods used in Great Britain

Enforcement Policy Statement

Examples of effective consultation and feedback opportunities that enable continuing cooperative relationships with regulated entities and other interested parties:

Standards and performance

The standards you can expect from us.

We will:

We also aim to:

If we fail to meet these standards we will apologise and aim to put things right.

Our performance: HSE Annual Report

We measure performance against our standards. The HSE Annual Report provides full details, including numbers of enquiries and customer satisfaction levels. We aim to continually improve our performance.

The leaflets ' The Health and Safety Executive - working with employers' and 'The Health and Safety Executive and you' provide further details.

Updated 2013-09-10