Industry fears for future as cuts threaten HSE

By Anne Bruce and Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Hse, Occupational safety and health, Health and safety executive

Concern is rising about the ability of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to carry out its statutory enforcement responsibilities as its budgets come under severe financial pressure.

Despite the HSE's denials that decisions have already been made, fears have also been raised about the future of its health and safety awareness campaigns, such as those covering manual handling, or slips, trips and falls.

The British Safety Council (BSC) welcomed government proposals announced last month to reform health and safety in the UK designed to concentrate inspections on high risk locations and irresponsible employers.

Significant budget cuts

But earlier this year it drew attention to the likely impact of forthcoming significant budget cuts some 35% between 2011 and 2015 on the HSE's ability to continue to carry out the present level of inspection visits to employers' premises.

The HSE will either have to cut back on a range of activities or extend cost recovery to areas of work not currently charged for or both, claimed the BSC.

The HSE has confirmed that it is exploring how it can share more of its costs with businesses that are the highest risks, while reducing burdens on lower risk businesses. It already recovers a significant element of its costs from hazardous industries, said an HSE spokeswoman.

"We are working on a proposal to charge those who create risks; a so-called 'fee for fault' principle," ​said HSE chair Judith Hackitt last December. "The idea being that those who are found not to be compliant with the law during an inspection should be charged for the work that the HSE does following the issuing of a notice or other requirement for action to rectify the fault."

Committed to frontline services

The HSE expects to make further cuts in its staff numbers, following the 200 posts that have already gone through voluntary redundancies, mainly from areas such as administration, research, policy and communications. However, the HSE spokeswoman claimed it was "committed to protecting frontline services"​.

A decision to close two regional offices Preston and Manchester has already been made as part of a review of its property portfolio that has been running for some time. Other offices are being looked at as part of the same review.

The HSE Incident contact centre and Infoline contracts come to an end later this year and the HSE spokeswoman said it had "taken the opportunity to review how the services should be delivered in future"​. Arrangements following the contract end are still to be confirmed, she said.

Like all government websites, the future of the HSE's site at is also currently under review.

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