Memorandum submitted by the Health and
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
welcomes the Regulatory Reform Committee's inquiry into the Better
Regulation Executive (BRE) and the impact of the better regulation
Since the early 1990s, HSE has been
committed to the better regulation agenda and the principles of
better regulation are an integral part of HSE's work.
BRE has been focused on delivering
regulatory reform over the last few years, and has provided a
sound basis for taking this agenda forward through a number of
initiatives. HSE has committed to playing its part, including
the reduction of administrative burdens by 25%, without reducing
levels of health and safety protection for workers.
HSE has developed a good relationship
with BRE on a wide range of areas. This relationship is important
for both BRE and HSE in developing and delivering wider better
regulation initiatives. HSE welcomes close working with BRE in
order to maximise the benefits of this agenda for business.
BRE has a sufficiently robust approach
to measuring and reporting on performance and outcomes through
a variety of mechanisms, including Simplification Plans and a
review of regulators' implementation of the Hampton Report recommendations.
HSE has already achieved some key
successes under the better regulation agenda, including the creation
of example risk assessments as part of its Sensible Risk Management
campaign. Although there remain challenges, the renewed drive
on this agenda from BRE has focused HSE's commitment to making
a real difference to the ease of compliance for business.
1. The Health and Safety Commission (HSC)
and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) were established in
1974 by the Health and Safety at Work etc Act (HSWA) as two separate
legal entities. HSC and HSE are statutory non-departmental public
bodies, performing their functions on behalf of the Crown. Responsibility
for HSC and HSE transferred to the Department for Work and Pensions
in July 2002.
2. The HSWA sets out the general duties
that employers have towards employees and members of the public,
duties that employees have to themselves and to each other, and
the duties of the self-employed. A fundamental principle of the
legal framework is that the responsibility for health and safety
lies with those who manage workplaces. They must assess the risks
attached to their activity and take proportionate action to control
3. HSE advises and assists HSC. It has a
statutory responsibility, along with Local Authorities (LAs),
for the enforcement of the HSWA and other relevant statutory provisions
in Great Britain. HSC and HSE work together to propose new laws
and standards, to conduct and sponsor research, to promote training
and to provide information and advice.
4. Following consultation, the Government
has confirmed its intention to merge HSC and HSE into a single
health and safety body. The aim of the merger and associated changes
is to create a new unitary body to present a strong, clear and
accountable external face, and which can internally provide better
challenge and support for the HSE team. Subject to Parliamentary
approval, HSC and HSE will shortly become a unitary body, retaining
the HSE name.
HSE AND BETTER
5. HSC/E helped develop and has long followed
the principles of good regulationproportionality, accountability,
consistency, transparency and targeting. In the early 1990s, HSE
carried out a review of its regulation which resulted in a reduction
in its stock of legislation by around 40%, largely by removing
prescription in favour of goal-setting legislation.
6. HSC/E is committed to the protection
of people's health and safety in the workplace. It constantly
reviews how it can help businesses improve their performance in
this area, and uses the better regulation agenda to guide its
interventions. HSC/E fully supports the Government's aim to remove
unnecessary paperwork or bureaucracy, demonstrated by its agreement
to work towards reducing administrative burdens of health and
safety regulation by 25% and to implement the recommendations
from the Hampton report. HSC/E's latest Simplification Plan, published
in December 2007, reaffirms its commitment to this agenda, in
particular to better, smarter legislation that is easier to understand
and apply. This helps businesses to comply with legislative requirements,
and therefore improves health and safety outcomes, without any
reduction in health and safety protection for workers.
7. HSE has a good working relationship with
BRE colleagues. HSE engages frequently with BRE officials on development
of better regulation initiatives. HSE's Chief Executive has biannual
meetings with the BRE Chair and Chief Executive, and also attends
the BRE's Heads of Regulators meetings. HSE's Better Regulation
Team has close working contact with BRE officials on a daily basis;
and its Board Level Champion for better regulation attends regular
meetings. In recent years, HSE has seconded staff to work in BRE,
both in established roles and for one-off projects.
Has the BRE developed a coherent strategy for
implementing regulatory reform?
8. HSC/E believes that BRE is committed
to implementing regulatory reform. This is demonstrated by the
variety of better regulation initiatives introduced over the last
couple of years. While its approach can sometimes appear to be
reactive or unplanned, it has delivered a number of useful tools/processes
that will help departments and regulators deliver wider regulatory
reform, such as the new Impact Assessment toolkit.
9. In the last two years, BRE's main focus
has been on HSE's delivery of the Government's target to reduce
administrative burdens by 25%. There is a danger that if this
is considered too rigidly it could result in HSC/E working on
initiatives to meet a target at the expense of addressing real
concerns of business and embedding regulatory reform across the
10. The Administrative Burdens Measurement
Exercise (ABME) indicated a total annual administrative cost of
health and safety legislation of £2.03 billion. HSC/E have
committed to work to reduce this cost by 25%, which equates to
a net reduction of £508 million.
11. By November 2007, HSE had reduced administrative
costs by £97 million (net savings). A further £352 million
of administrative costs had also been identified for reduction
through current and future initiatives, equating to 22%, or £450
million, of the overall costs.
12. Meeting the target reduction will be
challenging for HSE. Most health and safety legislation is EU
derived and goal-setting and so the focus has been on clarifying
the legal requirements through advice and guidance. Consequently,
HSE's efforts to reduce costs are on initiatives that make a real
difference to business, as well as addressing the highest cost
requirements as shown in the ABME. This approach is set out HSC/E's
Simplification Plan, which outlines progress made to date on the
25% reduction target, as well as describing HSE's proposed delivery
of the wider better regulation agenda. Risk assessment was the
highest costing requirement in the ABME at £600 million.
To address this, HSE initiated a Sensible Risk Management (SRM)
campaign. This is designed to improve risk management across business
and to improve health and safety outcomes by showing businesses
that risk assessment does not need to be complicated. It aims
to reduce administrative costs by a third. A major part of the
campaign is HSE's example risk assessments: 29 have been published
for various types of business and have been praised by businesses.
13. Focusing efforts on making a difference
to business does not always equate to reduction in the administrative
burden. HSC/E is working to change risk-averse behaviour. Examples
of this work are rebuttals of silly health and safety stories
in the media, and HSE's "myth of the month" media campaign.
This uses cartoons to tackle some of the most common health and
safety myths that can lead to businesses complying with bureaucratic
"requirements" that do not actually exist.
14. BRE has been actively engaged with the
European Commission (EC) in influencing the better regulation
agenda at a European level. For example, it has submitted dossiers
of simplification proposals from across government, including
from HSE, to the EC. Continued pressure from BRE will aid HSE's
dealings with the individual Directorates-General responsible
for the European legislation owned by HSE at a national level.
15. Whilst the volume of new BRE initiatives
has been challenging for HSC/E to influence and respond to, it
believes that the priority now should be delivery of its Simplification
Plan, including embedding new approaches in the organisation.
BRE officials have indicated that they share this view, which
Does the BRE work effectively with other areas
of government to implement regulatory reform initiatives?
16. Although HSC/E is an independent regulator
with responsibility for proposing and enforcing occupational health
and safety law, it applies better regulation principles to all
its activities. This means that in addition to publishing annual
Simplification Plans, it is subjected to scrutiny of its implementation
of the Hampton recommendations. In 2007, along with the four other
major regulators (Food Standards Agency, Financial Services Authority,
Environment Agency and Office of Fair Trading), HSE's progress
was reviewed by BRE and the National Audit Office.
17. HSE volunteered to be the first regulator
reviewed on the implementation of the Hampton recommendations.
Close consultation between BRE and HSE officials resulted in agreement
on the scope of the review and its logistical arrangements. Following
the review, HSC/E has worked with the other regulators and the
BRE to consider how follow up to the recommendations is best reviewedin
HSE's case by the new HSE non-Executive Board (the current HSC).
18. BRE is also carrying out a review of
the health and safety regime, with a particular focus on small,
lower risk businesses. HSE's Chief Executive is a member of the
review's steering group and an HSE inspector was seconded to the
review team. The review team has also presented to the HSC. Its
report is due to be published by BRE later this year.
19. As noted HSE has applied the five principles
of good regulation to its enforcement activities for more than
twelve years, notably through its Enforcement Policy Statement.
Consequently, HSE was influential in shaping the recommendations
of the Hampton Report. BRE colleagues have since worked closely
with HSE in developing these principles into the Compliance Code,
to which all regulators will have to have regard. HSC will shortly
publish a statement to demonstrate how it meets the requirements
of the Code.
20. BRE can perform a useful role in leading
and co-ordinating some joined up initiatives between departments,
for example on data-sharing. Closer working across government
can help to deliver regulatory reform effectively and efficiently.
21. HSE faces challenges in delivering some
aspects of regulatory reform. One such challenge is the Hampton
recommendation to encourage economic progress. This recommendation
does not sit comfortably with HSE's primary purpose of protecting
people from harm at work. Whilst recognising that improving health
and safety levels can improve business efficiency, HSC/E's primary
focus must be on protecting people. BRE's understandable ambition
to drive/implement regulatory reform needs to recognise that a
"one-size fits all" approach is not always appropriate.
Is the approach to measuring and reporting on
performance and outcomes sufficiently robust?
22. HSC/E believes that BRE's approach to
measuring and reporting on performance and outcomes is sufficiently
23. One of BRE's main tools for departments
to report on performance is departmental Simplification Plans.
HSC/E have published two Plans to date, both listing key projects
and outlining progress in delivering the 25% administrative burden
reduction target, as well as describing how HSE is working to
deliver the wider better regulation agenda. Prior to publication,
the HSC/E Simplification Plan is scrutinised by HSE and BRE officials,
as well as officials of the Panel for Regulatory Accountability
to ensure that the Plan is sufficiently robust and "fit for
24. BRE has developed an e-calculator. It
will allow HSE, along with the other departments and regulators,
to update the BRE's administrative burden database. One of the
entries to be completed is stakeholder verification. Therefore
HSE will be required to seek some degree of verification that
the admin burden reduction has been noticed by business.
25. As previously noted, HSE has also been
reviewed by the NAO and BRE in its implementation of the Hampton
Report's recommendations. Close working between officials allowed
a satisfactory framework for the review to be established. Although
still to be published, HSE's report is generally positive and
concluded that, in most respects, HSE complies with Hampton and
Macrory principles. Where it identified the need for further work,
this work is being taken forward.
Is the current approach to regulatory reform delivering
26. As previously described, HSE has a good
record in delivering regulatory reform and some of the initiatives
in HSE's 2006 Simplification Plan reflected work already in hand.
However, HSC/E welcomes the recent increased emphasis on delivering
regulatory reform in the UK. HSE's Sensible Risk Management (SRM)
campaign has been particularly successful in helping reduce the
time business spends on risk assessment, while improving the control
of health and safety risks. Business perception of the need for
a lot of paperwork in carrying out a risk assessment was recognised
as a problem and identified for action prior to the ABME. However,
the ABME has helped focus attention on delivering measurable results.
HSE's example risk assessments, which provide different types
of business with an example of what "good enough" looks
like, have been created in partnership with the relevant industries.
Feedback from businesses has been very positive, and it should
make a real difference to business.
27. A major challenge for HSE is to change
business and public perceptions of occupational health and safety,
and countering health and safety myths presented by the media.
This is being tackled through HSE's SRM campaign, via the "myth
of the month" campaign, as well as rebuttals of stories in
the media and public speeches given by HSC's Chair. Whilst this
work will not directly reduce administrative costs, making it
clear that health and safety legislation is not bureaucratic will
deliver a real benefit in helping businesses comply with legislative
requirements and avoid over-interpretation.