HSE’s regulatory approach to Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI and HSE’s regulatory remit

HSE regulates AI in a way that aligns with our mission and priorities.

HSE’s role in regulating AI includes:

  • regulating the use of AI where it impacts on health and safety in workplaces where HSE is the enforcing authority
  • regulating the use of AI in design, manufacture and supply of workplace machinery, equipment and products for use in the workplace as a Market Surveillance Authority under the Product Safety regulatory framework.
  • where AI impacts on HSE’s role to protect people and places, including building safety, chemicals and pesticides regulation.  

Health and safety law

Most health and safety legislation enforced by HSE arises from the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, which sets objectives to be achieved without prescribing how to achieve them. The goal-setting nature of this legislation means it is applicable regardless of the technology being used and so includes the use of AI in the workplace.  

Assess and manage risk

The central principle of health and safety law is that those who create risks are best placed to manage and control that risk in a sensible, proportionate, and pragmatic way. As benchmarks develop for the use of AI, we want to reach a point where AI risk is no longer novel and is managed in the same way as any other risk.

HSE expects a risk assessment to be undertaken for uses of AI which impact on health and safety and appropriate controls put in place to reduce risk so far as is reasonably practicable, including to address cyber security threats.

Regulatory principles

The UK government set out A pro-innovation approach to AI regulation (on GOV.UK) in a White Paper. This establishes cross-sectoral principles to guide how regulators approach common risks relating to AI, with regulators asked to interpret and apply these within their remits, on a context specific basis.

The principles of relevance to workplace health and safety are:

  • safety, security and robustness
  • appropriate transparency and explainability
  • accountability and governance

Understanding risks from AI in the workplace

AI is rapidly developing in capability and is a transformative technology. It can create and exacerbate health and safety risk but also has the potential to bring real benefits for health and safety.

HSE is experienced at helping Great Britain adapt safely to technological changes in the workplace and as with any new technology we will work to understand how it impacts on health and safety. We are a risk-based, proportionate regulator and in consultation with industry, routinely deal with innovation in the areas we regulate.

Developing HSE’s regulatory approach to AI

The focus of the work we’re doing to continue to develop our regulatory approach to AI includes:

  • co-ordinating work on AI, sharing knowledge and identifying key issues through an internal AI common interest group, bringing together colleagues from across HSE
  • working with government departments to shape the approach to AI regulation
  • supporting the standards making process, to establish benchmarks for AI interaction with machinery and functional safety by engaging with international standards organisations (BSI, IEC and ISO)
  • establishing relationships with industry and academic stakeholders, to share knowledge and learning on AI use cases and the impact on health and safety
  • collaborating with other regulators, though forums including the AI Standards Forum for UK Regulators, Information Commissioners Office AI Regulators Forum and the United Kingdom Health and Safety Regulators Network Innovation Sub-Group, to encourage a consistent regulatory approach  
  • identifying AI developments of interest to HSE through horizon scanning activities and monitoring AI developments in Great Britain and around the world, from a practical and regulatory perspective 
  • building our capability and experience in AI across specialist and scientific areas of HSE and working with partners as appropriate
  • supporting research bids that align with HSE’s areas of research interest (on GOV.UK) and help develop safe use of AI and the ability to regulate AI use 
  • setting up and trialling of an Industrial Safetytech Regulatory Sandbox (on discoveringsafety.com) to explore practical barriers to adoption of Industrial Safetytech in construction and how to break them down

Future work to develop our regulatory approach

HSE will continue our work to develop our regulatory approach to AI. We will work with our stakeholders as AI develops and, using our expertise, explore the challenges and opportunities it brings.

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