How we work

Local government

The risks in local government arise across the broad spectrum of activities and services delivered by individual councils, from waste management and education to social care, housing refurbishment and highways maintenance.  Some of these services are delivered in-house, or the council might use contractors or volunteers, or work in partnership with others.

Health and safety information, including guidance notes, FAQs and details about the role of HSE and other regulators, which is relevant to specific council services is available on the HSE industry webpages.

Local authorities are frequently involved in organising public events, which are often the source of media stories and myths about over-zealous approaches to health and safety. HSE's sensible risk campaign helps local authorities and others set the record straight and provides information about securing proportionate approaches to risk management.

If you require information about the role of local authorities as health and safety regulators, please go to the Local Authority Unit website.

Some local authorities have a unique role as regulatory partner to HSE. Further information is available from HSE's Local Authority Unit.

HSE Field Inspectors

HSE field inspectors generally deal with health and safety related issues or incidents that occur in local authority premises or as part of the services delivered by the authority.  They do this by a range of methods, which might include:

  • onsite inspections (announced and unannounced)
  • investigation of accidents and complaints
  • providing guidance and support at visits or by phone
  • enforcement where necessary.

HSE Sectors

HSE has a number of specialist Sectors, each dealing with a different major industry at national level. 

Each Sector comprises inspectors and policy advisers who:

  • lead discussions with employers/trade associations and trade unions
  • liaise with other Government departments and regulators
  • set operational policy
  • advise operational staff on inspection priorities and enforcement matters

HSE Public Services Sector

HSE's Public Services Sector has national policy responsibility for all central government departments, their agencies and those services delivered by other organisations on their behalf. This includes the NHS and subsidiary care organisations, independent health and social care, local government, fire and rescue services, police, defence, and education services in England, Scotland and Wales.

The breadth of services delivered by local authorities' cuts across a number of HSE sectors, however, the Public Administration and Education Unit in the Public Services Sector takes the overall lead on generic local authority matters.

The Sector encourages local government stakeholders to adopt a proportionate, common sense approach to risk management, especially in relation to delivery of public services focusing on opportunities to improve health and safety leadership.

HSE Public Services Sector - national engagement

The Public Services Sector works at national level with the Local Government Group (LG Group) and Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) to improve health and safety standards across local government. Much of this work is done through the National Health and Safety Practitioner Panel, which is operated by the LG Group and whose members comprise health and safety managers from LAs across the English Regions and Wales.

HSE Public Services Sector in Scotland maintains links with the Society of Personnel Directors Scotland (SPDS).

The Public Services Sector also works with the Public Services Group of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), which deals with health and safety matters across public services, with an emphasis on local government.  

Worker involvement is important in ensuring a sensible, proportionate and effective approach to risk management in local government. Union representation is well established and HSE Public Services Sector liaises on national issues with the three main local government unions - Unison, GMB and Unite.

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Updated 2023-06-06