The Health and Safety Executive (or HSE) is the organisation that oversees health, safety and welfare in the workplace across Great Britain. Northern Ireland has its own body that looks after workplace safety.
While the HSE name is well-known, not everyone is clear on its specific role.
In this week’s blog we want to look at the HSE and what it does as an organisation.
What Does The HSE Do?
The 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act changed the landscape in regards to workplace safety and out of this came the Health and Safety Executive.
Its actual functions are set out in the legislation itself and the HSE was created to:
- Assist and encourage persons concerned with matters relevant to the operation of the objectives of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
- Make arrangements for and encourage research and publication, training and information in connection with its work.
- Make arrangements for securing government departments, employers, employees, their respective representative organisations, and other persons are provided with an information and advisory service and are kept informed of, and adequately advised on such matters.
- Propose regulations.
Up until 2006 the HSE did have responsibility for railway safety however that was moved to the Office of Rail Regulation.
One of the main areas where the Health and Safety Executive is most effective is in enforcing the law.
Enforcement Powers of the HSE
Local authorities work together with the HSE to ensure that workplace’s are complying with health and safety law.
The HSE had a 95% conviction rate in 2015-16 (696 cases were prosecuted with at least one conviction being secured in 660 of these cases). In fact, fines totalled over £38 million for the same period, which was a huge increase from £18 million the previous year.
There are a range of powers available to the HSE if they wish to inspect a property that is possibly in breach of health and safety or to prosecute a business for failing to keep their workplace safe. We blogged about what powers health and safety inspectors have, previously.
It isn’t just monetary enforcement that the HSE dishes out. In 2015/16 its work resulted in the successful prosecution of 34 company directors and managers with 12 being imprisoned.
Complying With The HSE
Complying with health and safety is of upmost importance and failing to do this can put your business at serious risk.
The HSE has carried out valuable work which has helped to make the UK one of the safest countries to work in within the EU and it continues to be an important part of making the workplace safer for everyone in Britain. Enforcement is on the rise and record fines and sentences are being handed out to businesses and individuals who fail to comply with health and safety.
While the Health and Safety Executive is not immune to criticism it has played and continues to play a valuable role in ensuring that employees are protected and workplaces are safe for everyone involved.