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Health and Safety Executive

Health and Safety Executive
File:Health Service Executive Logo.svg
Agency overview
Formed 1974 (1974)
Type Crown status non-departmental public body
Headquarters Liverpool, England
Agency executives Judith Hackitt, Chair
Kevin Myers, (Acting) Chief Executive
Parent department Department for Work and Pensions
Key document Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, ss.10-11

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a non-departmental public body of the United Kingdom with its headquarters in Liverpool, England.[1] It is the body responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare, and for research into occupational risks in England and Wales and Scotland. Responsibility in Northern Ireland lies with the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland. The HSE was created by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and has since absorbed earlier regulatory bodies such as the Factory Inspectorate and the Railway Inspectorate though the Railway Inspectorate was transferred to the Office of Rail Regulation in April 2006. The HSE is sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions. As part of its work HSE investigates industrial accidents, small and large, including major incidents such as the explosion and fire at Buncefield in 2005. Though it formerly reported to the Health and Safety Commission, on 1 April 2008, the two bodies merged.[2][3]


The Executive's duties are to:[4]

  • 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.

The Executive is further obliged to keep the Secretary of State informed of its plans and ensure alignment with the policies of the Secretary of State, giving effect to any directions given to it.[5] The Secretary of State can give directions to the Executive.[6]

On 1 April 2006, the Executive ceased to have responsibility for railway safety.[7]

The Executive is responsible for the Employment Medical Advisory Service, which operates as part of its Field Operations Directorate.

Structure and responsibilities

Local authorities are responsible for the enforcement of health and safety legislation in shops, offices, and other parts of the service sector.

Agencies belonging to the HSE include

Explosives Inspectorate

HSE's Explosives Inspectorate enforces the legislation for the classification and transport of explosives. It licenses manufacturing and larger storage sites.

The Health and Safety Laboratory

Based in Buxton, Derbyshire, the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) employs over 350 people including scientists, engineers, psychologists, social scientists, health professionals and technical specialists.[8]

It was established in 1921 under the Safety in Mines Research Board to carry out large-scale tests related to mining hazards. Following the formation of the HSE, in 1975 the facilities became a Safety Engineering Laboratory and an Explosion and Flame Research Laboratory, operating as part of the Research Laboratories Service Division of the HSE. In 1995 the HSL was formed, including the Buxton site and laboratories in Sheffield. In 2004 the Sheffield activities moved to Buxton, and the University of Sheffield took over the Sheffield laboratory site.[9]

It now operates as an agency carrying out scientific research and investigations (e.g. on the Buncefield fire) for the HSE, other government agencies and the private sector.[8]

HM Inspectorate of Mines

HM Inspectorate of Mines is responsible for the correct implementation and inspection of safe working procedures within all UK mine workings. It is based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.[10]

Nuclear Directorate

The Nuclear Directorate was one of the bodies merged into the Office for Nuclear Regulation on 1 April 2011. Largely based in Bootle, the Nuclear Directorate had four main functions:

  • nuclear safety and radioactive waste management of civilian and defence sites - Nuclear Installations Inspectorate
  • security of civilian nuclear sites and nuclear transport - The Office for Nuclear Security (transferred to HSE April 2007)
  • safeguarding civilian nuclear material to prevent diversion to weapons - UK Safeguards Office (transferred to HSE April 2007)
  • a nuclear safety research programme

OSHCR (Occupational Safety & Health Consultants Register)

The HSE currently administrates the Occupational Safety & Health Consultants Register (OSHCR), a central register of registered safety consultants within the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. The intention of the HSE is to pass responsibility of operating the register to the relevant trade & professional bodies once the register is up and running.[11]


Some of the criticism of HSE has been that its procedures are inadequate to protect safety. For example, the public enquiry by Lord Gill into the Stockline Plastics factory explosion criticised the HSE for "inadequate appreciation of the risks associated with buried LPG pipework…and a failure properly to carry out check visits".[12] However, most criticism of the HSE is that their regulations are over-broad, suffocating, and part of a nanny state.[13] The Daily Telegraph has claimed that the HSE is part of a "compensation culture," that it is undemocratic and unaccountable,[14] and that its rules are costing jobs.[15]

However, the HSE denies this,[16] saying that much of the criticism is misplaced because it relates to matters outside the HSE's remit. The HSE also responded to criticism by publishing a "Myth of the Month" section on its website between 2007 and 2010, which it described as "exposing the various myths about ‘health and safety’".[17][18] This has become a political issue in the UK. The Lord Young report, published in October 2010, recommended various reforms aiming "to free businesses from unnecessary bureaucratic burdens and the fear of having to pay out unjustified damages claims and legal fees."[19]

Areas of regulation

The HSE focuses regulation of health and safety in the following sectors of industry:


  1. ^ "HSE offices". Health & Safety Executive. Retrieved 2012-04-07. 
  2. ^ Department for Work and Pensions (1 April 2008). "Health and Safety Commission and Health and Safety Executive merge to form a single regulatory body". Retrieved 2008-04-06. 
  3. ^ Legislative Reform (Health and Safety Executive) Order 2008, SI 2008/960
  4. ^ Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, s.11(2)
  5. ^ Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, s.11(3)
  6. ^ Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, s.12
  7. ^ Railways Act 2005, ss.2, 60/ Sch.3 para.3(1)(b)(2); Railways Act 2005 (Commencement No.5) Order 2006, SI 2006/266, art.2(2), Sch.
  8. ^ a b HSL Annual Report and Accounts 2010/2011[dead link]
  9. ^ A Century of Science
  10. ^
  11. ^ "About OSHCR on the HSE website". Retrieved 2014-08-13. 
  12. ^ "HSE response to Stockline 'too little, too late'". Daily Herald. 30 August 2009. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  13. ^ Martin, Arthur (2 April 2007). "Don't touch that office chair! Health and Safety demand 48 hours notice to move it". Daily Mail (London). 
  14. ^ "David Cameron declares war on the "nonsense" of the "over-the-top health and safety culture" The Tory Diary". 2009-12-01. Retrieved 2014-08-13. 
  15. ^ Political, Deputy (27 August 2010). "Health and safety laws are costing jobs". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  16. ^ Dudman, Jane (30 June 2010). "Dispelling the myths around health and safety". The Guardian (London). 
  17. ^ "Busting the health and safety myths". 2014-06-30. Retrieved 2014-08-13. 
  18. ^ "HSE and local authorities hit back at ‘health and Safety’ myths". HSE. 3 July 2007. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  19. ^ "Common Sense Common Safety: A report by Lord Young of Graffham to the Prime Minister" (PDF). HM Government. p. 9. 

External links