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August 26, 2009

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HSE guidance and ACoPs to be provided free of charge online

From 1 September the full range of HSE guidance and approved codes of practice will be available free of charge on its website, as part of a major drive to encourage use of and compliance with the information.

As announced by HSE chair Judith Hackitt at the launch of the regulator’s new strategy in June, £1 million worth of content from some 230 priced ‘HSG’ and ‘L’ series publications will be free to download, including guidance for a variety of industries, and detailed information on regulations and codes of practice.

The decision was taken after the HSE board agreed that access to advice, guidance and regulation should not be limited to those who are prepared to pay for it. The Executive said it also demonstrates its commitment to helping small businesses and supporting managers, employees, and health and safety professionals in organisations of all sizes who want to do the right thing.

Around 50 publications will be made immediately available on the HSE website in a ‘printer-friendly’ PDF format, with the remainder being converted and ready to download by the end of March 2010. The HSG and L series are the most popular of the HSE’s publications but a spokesperson for the Executive told SHP that the remainder will be examined to see whether others should also be made free of charge.

The spokesperson added: “The residual publications are fairly marginal and low-volume in terms of orders, but if we are asked in the future about making certain ones free we will deal with such requests on a case-by-case basis.”

The option to buy hard-copy versions of the publications will remain, and the content of the print and online versions will be identical.

The health and safety law poster, which employers have a duty to display in a prominent position in their workplace, will remain a priced item, as will HSE films.

The HSE’s head of business, John Lack, explained that the decision was a direct response to the needs of industry: “Having listened to our stakeholders, the board has agreed that charging for health and safety guidance and advice may present a barrier to compliance.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for all businesses, safety representatives and workers in Great Britain to access HSE publications free of charge, which will greatly enhance compliance with regulation and best practice.”

Health and safety chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, Mary Boughton, said: “The FSB welcomes the HSE’s decision to offer its publications for free online. These free guides will provide a valuable resource for business owners. Health and safety can be a minefield for a small business: insurance requirements, uncertainty, and fear of litigation can make what should have been a simple task into a burden.”

Copyright status on the publications has also been amended to encourage re-use – organisations will no longer have to pay for licensing to reproduce contents.


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