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November 2, 2011

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Government cagey about future of HSE website

The Government’s website rationalisation programme and decision to plough ahead with the development of a single government domain to host all main public information has thrown the future of the HSE website into doubt.
 
A Cabinet Office report released last month shows that 444 central government websites are currently open, compared with 820 last year. The streamlining process aims to reduce unnecessary spending and, at the same time, pave the way for a single government Web domain.
 
This domain – a recommendation made last year in a government-commissioned report by lastminute.com founder Martha Lane Fox – would host all key public information, building on the services delivered through the Directgov website, as well as offering additional features and reducing the need for individual government sites.
 
Rumours that the HSE website could be under threat began to circulate following publication of the minutes of the HSE’s Tyre and Rubber Industries Safety Action Group’s meeting in April. The minutes read: “HSE’s website – this may become part of the ‘DirectGov’ website, along with all other Government departments and agencies. Safety Action Group (SG) members expressed their concern at this possibility.”
 
On seeing these minutes, John Hamilton, head of safety, health and well-being at Leeds Metropolitan University, made some inquiries last month to the HSE, which replied: “There are no current plans to close down HSE’s website and it remains an important resource for both employers and employees.”
 
Indeed, the wealth of information on the website was one of the main reasons why the HSE decided to sacrifice its Infoline telephone service, which closed in September as part of an efficiency measure. Since then, the Executive has been encouraging businesses and members of the public seeking information and official guidance on health and safety to visit its website, which it describes as “a huge knowledge bank where people can access and download information free of charge and use interactive Web tools”.

The HSE website currently receives 26 million visits a year and had 11,546,036 unique users in 2010/11. It has recently been enhanced with interactive tools for low-risk businesses and an expanded ‘frequently-asked questions’ section.

Only 134 of the 444 central government websites currently live have been given approval to stay open. However, although a Cabinet Office spokesperson confirmed to SHP that Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith had requested that the HSE website be retained “for the time being”, he added: “The list of websites that may be retained pending decisions around the single domain will continue to be reviewed from the perspective of cost-efficiencies in effective communication with the intended audiences.”
 
User data from the Cabinet Office show that the HSE site performs very well against other government sites – a factor that should be taken into account when any decision is made on its future. A snapshot of the statistics show that:

  • 72.9 per cent of users – got most, or all of what they needed;
  • 81.7 per cent – said they were satisfied, or very satisfied;
  • 91.2 per cent – described the site as good, or very good for ease of use;
  • 79.8 per cent – described the site as good, or very good for ease of finding information;
  • 83.8 per cent – described the site as having a good, or very good search facility; and
  • 92.7 per cent – would definitely or probably recommend the site to others.

The Cabinet Office spokesperson told SHP that the HSE is not part of the beta project for the single domain and that “there are no plans to migrate HSE content on to the test site”. He added: “The beta development of a single government domain will go live in early 2012. The project will then be assessed and the way forward developed following the results of the beta launch.”

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A
A
12 years ago

To get rid of the HSE website would be a huge mistake. It is crammed full of useful information and is worded at a level that everyone can understand, from novice to a full time H&S professional. It is a vital tool that the government should promote to dispel H&S myths as part of current government policy, not look at it as a place to save money. By removing such a vital resource, costs to business in relation to H&S would more than likely increase not decrease..

Andy
Andy
12 years ago

Would SHP consider promoting a petition to the government to keep this website independant?
The figures show that in generally works for most people, and from my own point of view, a very useful resource and library of information.
I do also subscribe to a third party company for HSE and environmental information, but regularly come back to the HSE website when I am looking for particular health and safety information.

Chris
Chris
12 years ago

Well done the goverment again!! why not just get rid of all Health and Safety? that seems their aim or at least locking it in a cupboard till they need to utilise it. Hiding the HSE web site amongst a single goverment domain would be disatrous. The information provided by the HSE web site is invaluable and ease of access to it is paramount. Love or loath the HSE, they provide the best industry support for H&S time for us to support them.

Garrywhittam
Garrywhittam
12 years ago

I find the HSE website very useful for my NEBOSH Diploma study and would be saddened to see it go under the DirectGov website, which currently is not as good as the HSE website.

Lets hope the government use common sense, but judging by David Camerons’ comments and attitude to health and safety, I feel it may fall on death ears.

John
John
12 years ago

Yes Richard, that was our experience too.

Lhill96
Lhill96
12 years ago

While not wishing to be critical of the Directgov website, I sincerely hope that the HSE website remains discrete. It is a dedicated and very effective source of information and advice. I would encourage SHP and IOSH members to say so and ensure it is retained. It is easy to use and its contents are easily understood.

Major
Major
12 years ago

If industry really wants a source of consistent and authoritative guidance on legislative compliance – go no further than the HSE’s website. If we did, we would all be singing from the same safety hymn-book.

Cumbersome it may be but it is a darn sight better than the opinions of the egotistical self-appointed ‘regulators’ and know-it-all’s, who cause disruption and widespread confusion with their edicts

Paul
Paul
12 years ago

It would be crazy to move the HSE website. They have already closed down the HSE helpline and a move to direct gov would make it even harder for employers, particularly SME’s to find the guidance that they need. They are supposed to be making life easier for SME’s and this would just make them feel more frustrated.

Paul
Paul
12 years ago

Is nothing out of reach to these people? they cutting every thing they can to make savings, the thing is if the HSE site go’s the “money saved” will be spent looking after accident victims especially from the smaller business community and Individuals. If the rumours are untrue why don,t they nip it in the bud and release a statement to put all this palarver to bed one way or another.

Richard
Richard
12 years ago

They closed the web site for the Office of the Public Guardian, where you go to arrange powers of attourney, and moved it to the directgov web site. Now you can’t find or download what you need….

Stuart514
Stuart514
12 years ago

I have raised the issue with my MP who has written to the Minister for the cabinet office to address the potential demise of the HSE website.
He will be in touch with a response.

Thorsfall
Thorsfall
12 years ago

The HSE website is probably the best in the world and it would be a disgraceful act if the website became entangled within the bureaucracy of a government website. There is the adage that ‘small is beautiful’ and ‘one size doesn’t fit all’

Vernonwatson
Vernonwatson
12 years ago

The Government strikes again – the HSE website is a font of knowledge for all people requiring information ranging from private individuals to health and safety professionals; all requiring information – which the HSE website does, both easily and comprehensively.
The safety associations, IOSH, IIRSM, RSPH, etc. and health, trade associations, Constructionskills, NFDC, ARCA, etc. and safety professionals in particular must lobby and protest against any move to integrate within ‘Directgov’ .