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The Administrative Burdens Measurement Exercise (ABME)

The ABME was a cross-government exercise, carried out in 2005, and was designed to provide an indicative cost of the administrative burden placed on industry through regulations. It estimated the cost to business associated with complying with administrative tasks (form filling, record keeping etc) to calculate an estimated total annual administrative cost of all legislation in force in May 2005.

The ABME estimated the total annual administrative cost of health and safety legislation to be £2.032 billion1, which was accepted as HSE’s baseline figure. Since 2005, HSE’s baseline has been adjusted to £2.022 billion to take into account machinery of government changes as well as a few discrepancies in the original data. 

HSE is committed to working towards reducing administrative burdens by 25%, and therefore is aiming to make a reduction of £505 million from the revised 2005 baseline figure.

HSE has now identified projects, which, if successful, will reduce the administrative burden from health and safety legislation by over 25%, prior to the estimation of potential savings for one of HSE’s new projects.

The ABME identified ten regulations that account for 77% of HSE’s total annual costs. These are:

Regulation Top costing administrative elements
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 Risk management and risk assessment
Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 Landlords’ gas safety check
Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 Checking and recording examinations of equipment
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 Risk assessment
Employee training and maintaining records of training
Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 Risk assessment
Information to employees
Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 Health and safety policy statement
Health and safety information to employees
Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 Compiling information on emergency arrangements for the emergency services2
Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 Providing information to safety representatives to enable them to fulfil their functions
Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1994 Preparing rules for the management of health and safety.
Updating the health and safety file and delivering it to the client on completion of the job
Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 Checking and recording examinations of equipment

Many of the largest administrative burdens are as a result of the requirement applying to all businesses, and the actual cost to an individual business is quite small. Other high cost administrative burdens are requirements to provide information to third parties, such as employees. Giving sufficient information to others to help them look after their own health and safety is fundamental to health and safety policy in Great Britain.

On the whole, health and safety regulations are goal-setting, and do not specify a required method for carrying out legal requirements, for example, how to provide information to others, or how and in what format to keep records. The interpretation of the legal requirements (by businesses, advisors, insurers, or others) can sometimes account for high administrative costs in complying, rather than the law itself. Therefore, many of HSE’s initiatives to reduce administrative burdens concern clarifying requirements through guidance, rather than changes to legislation.

HSE is focusing efforts on making a significant difference to business to help them comply with legislation, as well as reducing administrative costs. This includes addressing business irritants, and work on this does not necessarily feed through to a reduction in the administrative burden measured by the ABME. An example of this is joint inspections with other regulators, helping to reduce the time and effort involved for a business.


  1. This figure takes into account the removal of “business as usual” costs – costs for activities that businesses would do anyway regardless of legislation.
  2. HSE has not directly addressed the high costs of compiling information on emergency arrangements, but has reduced the costs for complying with this regulation for businesses working with textured decorative coatings, as a licence is no longer required.
Updated 2009-07-12