Delivering health and safety reform


Since the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974, Britain has gone on to achieve one of the best health and safety records in the world but there is still much to be done. 173 workers were killed at work in 2011/12 with a further 111,000 reported non-fatal injuries to employees and an estimated 1.8 million people suffering from an illness they believed was caused or made worse by work. Behind these statistics is not only enormous distress and loss for individuals and families but also massive costs to the economy: an estimated £13.4 billion in 2010/11 alone.

As the independent regulator HSE is at the forefront of tackling this challenge as well as delivering the Government's priorities for reform of the health and safety system. It is also the regulator enabling the safe operation of those high-hazard industries, including nuclear power, that are essential to the running of the country. The work summarised below illustrates just some of the ways HSE is seeking to bring about the improvements required in Britain's health and safety performance, supporting the nation's infrastructure, simplifying health and safety legislation and guidance and addressing the unnecessary risk aversion and trivialisation that has undermined the cause of health and safety in the past.

Supporting and motivating others to improve health and safety in their workplace

By making it easier for people to understand what is really required HSE enables everyone to take responsibility for managing risks sensibly. With HSE's help employers can see that work is done safely without the trivial distractions and unnecessary costs that can get in the way of managing and growing their business.

With around a million workplaces to regulate HSE coordinates its proactive interventions so they achieve the greatest impact and has shifted the focus of health and safety enforcement activity away from lower risk businesses to those sectors and activities with the most serious risks or where risks are least well controlled.

Simplifying the regulatory framework and working inrope to maintain standards and minimise burdens

HSE is making the legal framework for health and safety clearer and removing unnecessary burdens by scrapping outdated legislation, cutting out duplication and removing regulatory requirements which offer little in terms of improving health and safety outcomes.

By influencing and negotiating effectively inrope HSE has secured equitable and sensible outcomes for British industry and workers.

Securing compliance with the law

Despite financial constraints HSE has maintained its frontline activity to investigate those complaints and incidents where action may be needed to improve health and safety standards or hold wrongdoers to account before the courts. In 2011/12 HSE:

Supporting the nation's infrastructure and developing technologies

For those specialised industries that are strategically important to Britain's economy, and in which failures in safety can have catastrophic consequences, HSE provides public assurance that risks are being effectively managed and controlled. It also acts as an enabling regulator for emerging industries and technologies where the risks are not yet fully understood and supports sustainable development and industrial activity through its planning advice and issuing of authorisations.

Reducing costs, improving services and working openly

Like the rest of the public sector HSE has been reducing its costs to the taxpayer. In the last five years HSE has reduced its taxpayer funding by nearly £61m (26%) in real terms, maintaining the effectiveness of its regulatory functions by focusing on reducing costs across administrative and support functions.

HSE is also transforming its services to make more of them digital by default while continuing to provide an effective response to the public.