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.
- HSE makes all of its guidance available free online and has been improving its website to provide more accessible advice for low risk businesses and SMEs. The website received more than 31m visits in 2012.
- Health and Safety Made Simple, a plain English guide that takes businesses through their basic health and safety duties, was launched in March 2011 and has now been accessed online by more than 646,000 users.
- The Health and Safety Toolbox microsite helps SMEs to identify, assess and control common work hazards. Since going live in September 2012 over 75,000 users have accessed the advice provided by the toolbox. The HSE website home page has been redesigned to ensure that those who are low risk or new to health and safety start their journey with Health and Safety Made Simple, and then progress to the Toolbox if they decide they require further information.
- Online risk assessment tools for offices, shops and charity shops have been made available to help cut the whole process back to less than 20 minutes. The office tool, which to date has been used to produce over 24,000 risk assessments, is expected to save business around £380,000 a year.
- HSE is reviewing all of its guidance to ensure it provides concise, straightforward advice, streamlining its published material by around 30%. HSE's Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs) are also being reviewed and in 2013 HSE will be publishing six revised ACOPs, withdrawing six by consolidation and will be seeking to withdraw three outright.
- Revised guidance for Portable Appliance Testing was published in April 2012 making clear testing requirements in low risk workplaces, a source of myths estimated to cost an unnecessary £30m a year in offices alone.
- With HSE's support the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR) has been established to give employers confidence they are accessing advice from well-qualified, competent consultants. Launched in March 2011 there are currently more than 2200 consultants on the register.
- The Myth Busters Challenge Panel is providing a mechanism for anyone - companies, organisations or individuals - to challenge claims made about health and safety requirements that they believe to be disproportionate or inaccurate. Since its launch in April 2012 the panel has provided advice on over 100 cases.
- HSE helped Britain celebrate the Diamond Jubilee by publishing online tips to help those planning street parties challenge false health and safety restrictions and red tape.
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.
- Sector strategies have been published for 16 core industry sectors setting out agreed aims for each industry to achieve to improve its health and safety performance. Developed in consultation with stakeholders they are used to guide HSE's proactive work and choice of interventions.
- Between October 2009 and March 2012 HSE completed a programme of 3600 inspections of high priority installations in support of a major ongoing programme to replace higher risk underground LPG pipework. 1,900 enforcement notices were served during the course of the inspection programme.
- More than 100 health and safety awareness events were held in 2011/12 providing advice to over 13,500 attendees working in hard to reach sectors.
- HSE worked closely with partner organisations and industry in preparation for London 2012 to make it one of the safest Olympic Games ever with no work-related fatalities during the work to build the new venues or during the staging of the Games themselves.
- By focusing on higher risk sites and poorly performing businesses proactive HSE inspections in non-major hazard industries were reduced by approximately one-third, from 33,000 in 2010/11 to less than 22,000 in 2011/12.
- LA regulators have also reduced their inspections from 70,700 in 2011/12 to a projected 16,400 in 2012/13 based on mid-year returns. HSE is now consulting on proposals for a statutory National LA Enforcement Code that is based on the same principles used to direct HSE's inspection activities.
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.
- 20 redundant or unnecessary regulations will have been scrapped by April 2013 generating savings of around £0.5m over 10 years.
- In April 2012 reporting regulations were changed to extend the time an employee is off work before an accident has to be reported, a change estimated to see a 28% reduction in reports submitted saving £5m over 10 years. HSE has since consulted on broader changes to simplify and clarify reporting requirements which are expected to significantly reduce unnecessary reporting.
- HSE has consulted on removing requirements for HSE to approve first aid training arrangements, a change which will save business an estimated £4m over 10 years and, by removing the requirement from public sector personnel, save society an estimated £85m over 10 years.
- Proposals for exempting self-employed workers from health and safety law where their activities do not put others at risk have also been consulted on. The option that will be taken forward is expected to exempt over 800,000 people yielding cost savings of around £2.7m over 10 years. The exemption would not extend to those self-employed who employ others or whose work activities pose a potential risk of harm to others.
- HSE works closely with industry when developing policy options, consulting widely and identifying costs to business from any changes to legislation. The Government's Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) assessed 91% of HSE impacts assessments as 'fit for purpose' in 2011. HSE maintained this performance, the best by any Government department or agency, through 2012.
By influencing and negotiating effectively inrope HSE has secured equitable and sensible outcomes for British industry and workers.
- British business will be saved somewhere between £30m and £230m over 10 years through gains secured during negotiation of theropean Regulation on the placing on the market and use of biocidal products.
- Early action with contacts within theropean Commission has substantively delayed a potentially burdensome and poorly conceived draft Directive on work-related musculoskeletal disorders, saving British business from additional costs estimated at between £90m and £330m per year.
- A crucial derogation for magnetic resonance imaging activities in the proposed Directive on electromagnetic fields has been protected.
- A change has been secured in the form of the proposal on the safety of offshore oil and gas activities, protecting the UK's world-leading offshore safety regime from disruption and providing the industry with greater certainty as to future requirements.
- Work with like-minded member states has enabled the blocking of a potential Directive on protection of occupational safety and health in hairdressing, saving the British hairdressing sector, which includes many micro or small businesses, from estimated additional costs of £75m per year.
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:
- Followed up around 10,400 health and safety complaints from workers or members of the public that met HSE's agreed risk-based criteria.
- Served 9,900 enforcement notices.
- Investigated nearly 4,000 incidents that met HSE's selection criteria.
- Instigated 584 prosecution cases securing convictions in 92% of cases.
- HSE is supported in its enforcement activities by the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL), an in-house agency of HSE providing specialist incident investigation services that help secure vital scientific evidence.
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.
- Annual intervention programmes have been delivered to secure the systematic management of hazardous activities in key high-hazard industry sectors. In 2011/12 over 1500 major operators were visited including major hazard sites, offshore installations, gas pipeline operators, mines, and biological agent operators, and over 97% of safety cases and reports for the safe operation of major hazard installations were assessed within agreed standards.
- A review in 2010 of the regulatory regime for on-shore major accident hazards introduced improvements to provide industry with assurance that the joint regulators would take consistent approaches and focus their resources on the areas of most concern and the industry's poor performers. A further stage of improvements will be introduced in response to the BRE's recent Focus on Enforcement review.
- To enable the creation of a single integrated nuclear regulator HSE established the Office for Nuclear Regulation as an in-house agency in April 2011 ahead of Government's intention to establish it as a statutory corporation, expected in April 2014 subject to legislation.
- A significant milestone for the building of new nuclear power stations was reached in December 2012 when ONR, with the Environment Agency, granted a Design Acceptance Confirmation for theropean Pressurised Reactor design.
- In November 2012 a joint agreement with the Environment Agency was published on the coordinated regulation of shale gas exploitation.
- In the first reporting period since implementation of the Penfold action plan 99.5% of consent and permissioning applications were determined within the timescales required.
- HSE advised local planning authorities on 101 complex planning applications in 2011/12 and responded to 97% of applications of all types within 21 days.
- HSL has worked with other Government departments and agencies to help protect national infrastructure. This includes work on flood risks with DEFRA and with the Home Office on interoperability across the emergency services.
- It is also working directly for major corporations on new technologies in nuclear power, petrochemicals, process pharmaceuticals and aerospace and has used its multi-disciplinary scientific expertise, risk management knowledge and highly specialised testing and validation facilities to help industry safely introduce new products and processes whilst maintaining the safe operation of existing plant.
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.
- Accommodation costs have been reduced by 16% by having fewer, smaller, and more efficient offices and letting spare capacity to sub-tenants.
- By renegotiating major contracts with providers Information Systems/Information Technology spending has been reduced by 22%.
- External science spend has been reduced by 64% by improving the targeting and prioritisation of research and commissioning research in partnership with industries and stakeholders or through collaborations with national, international and programmes.
HSE is also transforming its services to make more of them digital by default while continuing to provide an effective response to the public.
- An online service with interactive forms has been introduced for the statutory reporting of injuries and incidents.
- HSE has moved to a web-based information service. Following the switch visits to the HSE website increased by 400,000 per month and HSE's email bulletin service has attracted over 1.6m subscriptions.
- HSE deals with almost 15% of all FOI requests received by monitored bodies and is the only monitored body to have received more than 1000 requests in every quarter since the FOI Act was introduced. In 2011/12, 6476 requests were received of which 92% were responded to within the 20-day target.