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April 25, 2013

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Government launches review of HSE

Employment minister Mark Hoban has today (25 April) announced a review of the Health and Safety Executive, as part of the Government’s commitment to reform the public sector.

In April 2011, the Cabinet Office announced that all non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) would undergo a substantive review at least every three years to ensure that their functions remain necessary, and should be delivered independently of the Government.

The review will assess whether there is a continuing need for the HSE’s functions, as well as whether it is complying with the principles of good governance.

An initial review by the Government in 2010 led to the reform of 500 public bodies. Announcing the HSE Triennial Review 2013, which will be conducted in two stages, Mr Hoban said: “In 2010, we acted to close down unnecessary public bodies and ensure that those that remained were fit to deliver public services efficiently and effectively.

“Routine reviews, such as the one I am launching today, ensure that bodies such as HSE continue to be fit for purpose, and that they are providing the value for money that the taxpayer expects.”

The first stage of the review will identify and examine the key functions of the Executive. It will assess how the functions contribute to the core business of the regulator and its sponsor department the DWP, and whether these functions are still required.

If the conclusion is that the functions are still necessary, the review will then examine whether the HSE’s current constitution remains the best way to perform those functions, or if another delivery method might be more appropriate.

For a body to remain an NDPB it must satisfy at least one of the Government’s three tests:

  • Does it perform a technical function that needs external expertise?
  • Do its activities require political impartiality? and
  • Does it need to act independently to establish facts?

Martin Temple, chair of EEF, will lead the review. The size and profile of the Executive means the review will also be overseen by an independent challenge group, whose job it will be to challenge the findings. Its members include: Willy Roe CBE (chair) – non-executive member of the DWP Board; Paula McDonald CBE – deputy director, public bodies reform, Efficiency and Reform Group, Cabinet Office; Neil Carberry – director for employment and skills, Confederation of British Industry; Hugh Robertson – senior health and safety officer, TUC; and Daniel Goodwin – executive director, finance and policy, Local Government Association.

Responding to the minister’s announcement, the Executive’s chair, Judith Hackitt, said: “It is approaching 40 years since HSE was created, and in that time the organisation has continually adapted to keep pace with changes in industry and to ensure it continues to make a positive contribution to reducing death, injury and illness in the workplace.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with Martin Temple and to contribute to the review, which we expect to provide robust and helpful scrutiny of HSE and its responsibilities.”

IOSH said it is also looking forward to contributing to the review and hoped that it would find a need for the regulator to be given extra resources.

Richard Jones, IOSH head of policy and public affairs, said: “Good health and safety regulation is absolutely essential to saving lives and to economic growth. The UK needs an adequately resourced, independent and expert health and safety regulator. HSE can only provide this if given the funding and support it needs from Government.

“We certainly expect this review to find the HSE ‘fit for purpose’, but hope that stage two will fully recognise the need for increased resources.”

Construction union UCATT described the timing of the announcement – just three days before Workers’ Memorial Day (28 April) – as offensive.

“This isn’t an innocent review,” said general secretary Steve Murphy. “The Government has got a great deal of form in cutting safety legislation. The way that this announcement was sneaked out demonstrates this review is a smokescreen for a further attack on safety standards. Their attacks on safety are endangering workers lives.”

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