• Lee Calver
  • 1 July 2014

Government offers response to review of HSE

The Government last week published its formal response to the Triennial Review of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which was conducted by Martin Temple, former Chief Executive of the manufacturers' organisation, EEF, and published in January 2014.

Temple’s Review looked at the continuing need for HSE’s functions, the best delivery model and whether HSE governance complies with good practice principles.

Despite a considerable amount of uncertainty initially surrounding the Review, including trade unions accusing the Government of “questioning the very existence of the HSE”, the Review was generally welcomed by health and safety professionals.

Background to the Review

In April 2013, Martin Temple was asked to lead the Triennial Review of the HSE on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). It is Government policy that all Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) should undergo a substantive review at least once every three years, and this was the first Triennial Review of the HSE.

These Triennial Reviews are in place so the following can be examined:

Stage 1 - whether the functions of the NDPB remain necessary and whether delivery by an arms-length body is the most efficient and effective way to deliver these functions.

Stage 2 - if it is concluded that the functions of the NDPB should continue to be delivered by an arms-length body, whether adequate control and governance arrangements are in place to ensure that the body complies with the principles of good governance.

Having considered the evidence, Mr Temple concluded that there is a continuing need for the functions that HSE delivers, and a very strong case for those functions to continue to be delivered by an arms-length body. Having reached that conclusion, Temple considered whether adequate control and governance arrangements were in place to ensure that the body complies with the principles of good governance.

He concluded that, on the whole, HSE is operating with the level of control and governance that should be expected of an arms-length body of its size and profile. He did, however, identify a number of areas where there is scope for innovation and change, to ensure that HSE continues to operate efficiently and effectively in the 21st century.

The Government last week revealed that it has now fully considered all of the recommendations of the Triennial Review, and produced a report which provides a response to those recommendations and updates on progress made so far in implementing them, where appropriate.

Review of FFI underway

Overall, Martin Temple made 38 recommendations for the Government to consider, including a review of the controversial fee for intervention (FFI) scheme. Temple looked at the FFI scheme, and advocated that there should be a clear distinction between the income generated by FFI and the funding of the HSE.

In response, the Government stated that while it remains committed to the underlying principle of the FFI cost recovery regime, it does recognise that Martin Temple found that a number of stakeholders were concerned about how the regime and, in particular, how misperceptions of it might have potentially damaged previously positive relationships between HSE and those it regulates.

As a result, The Rt. Hon Mike Penning MP, Minister of State for Disabled People, has instructed HSE to set up a Review Panel, under an independent chair, to consider not just the operation of FFI, but also the impact charging has had on the relationship between HSE and business.

It then revealed that in July 2014, the Review Panel will report to the HSE Board, who will make recommendations to the Minister for Disabled People on the future of the FFI regime. The review will be published once the Minister has had an opportunity to consider its findings, according to the Government’s response document.

Further steps

In addition, the Government response also sets out a number of other steps to be taken with regard to the HSE, including:

  • The HSE will begin testing with possible customers the market demand for a fully-chargeable inspection service for organisations with mature health and safety management systems in the coming months.
  • HSE’s new asbestos behaviour change campaign will be launched in July.
  • By September 2014, HSE will have fully implemented a new performance framework.
  • By the end of 2014, work to deliver the recommendations in Professor Löfstedt's report will have been completed.
  • A review of the National Local Authority Enforcement Code following its first year in effect will have been undertaken by the end of 2014.

The full Government response can be found here.

Following the release of the response, Workplace Law Head of Health and Safety, Simon Toseland, said:

“Overall, the review praised the professionalism of the HSE, but there are gaps in terms of how the HSE gauges the quality of its services. The report specifically refers to the amount of time the HSE takes to investigate non-fatal investigations and that these should be completed within a 12 month period.

“Key concerns were raised about the FFI scheme, which have already been discussed here. I have no doubt that on the back of this report, the HSE will become more transparent in the way that it serves us, which I believe can only be a positive move.”