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Who are the HSE?

You will probably have noticed that The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are referenced time and time again not only in our blog posts, but in all the health and safety guidance and literature that is out there.

So who are they are what exactly do they do?!

The HSE acts in the public interest to prevent work-related death, injury or ill health across Great Britain’s workplaces. They are not the sole regulator, as in many cases local authorities are responsible for breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974. Their work is based on the philosophy that everyone has the right to come home safe and well from their job. The HSE sets the strategy, policy and legal framework for health and safety in Great Britain. More recently they have greatly simplified health and safety law, reducing unnecessary burdens on dutyholders, and promoting an approach that is risk-based and goal-focused.

How do they achieve this?

They achieve this using a variety of methods to influence, change, and help people manage risks at work. These include:

  • providing advice, information and guidance

  • raising awareness in workplaces by influencing and engaging

  • operating permissioning and licensing activities in major hazard industries

  • carrying out targeted inspections and investigations

  • taking enforcement action to prevent harm and hold those who break the law to account

The fundamental principle of health and safety law is that those who create risks are best placed to control them, and that any actions should be proportionate to the risks that need managing. The HSE take into account the impact on the economy, by ensuring any action we take is proportionate, targeted, consistent, transparent and accountable.

Inspecting key industry sectors, workplaces and work activities is important for the HSE as it helps ensure health and safety risks are being managed effectively. They target and inspect dutyholders in sectors which have the most serious risks, or where they have information and intelligence that health and safety is a significant concern.

Furthermore investigating reportable injuries, diseases, dangerous occurrences and concerns raised by worker, the public or others helps improve the UK’s health and safety standards. Not only does it help to determine root causes, but it allows us to share lessons and identify what actions a dutyholder needs to take to prevent any recurrence. Not all reports are investigated, only the most serious work-related incidents, injuries or cases of ill health – in line with the HSE’s incident selection criteria.

Finally the HSE’s emphasis is on prevention but where appropriate enforcement action will be taken. Not only does enforcement deal immediately with serious risks but it ensures dutyholders are held to account if they fail in their responsibilities and break the law.

The range of enforcement options include:

  • providing information and advice face-to-face or in writing

  • serving notices on dutyholders

  • withdrawing approvals

  • varying licences, conditions or exemptions

  • issuing simple cautions

  • prosecution

There we have it, a reminder of just exactly who the HSE are and what they can do to help Britain’s businesses and workforce.

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