The UK Health and Safety Executive - What's it all about?

The UK Health and Safety Executive - What's it all about?

19th June 2014

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK is a non-departmental public body that is responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of health, safety and welfare in the workplace.  The organisation has its headquarters in Liverpool and was created by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, absorbing the existing regulatory bodies like the Railway Inspectorate and the Factory Inspectorate.  Since then, the Railway Inspectorate has been transferred to the Office of Rail Regulation. 

The HSE is also responsible for research into occupational risks in England, Wales and Scotland while this responsibility in Northern Ireland lies with the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland.  The HSE investigates all industrial accidents that take place in the UK, however large or small.

The duties of the HSE are to:

  • Assist and encourage those people who are concerned with matters relevant to the operation of the objectives of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
  • Make arrangements to secure government departments, employers, employees, their representative organisations and any other persons who are provided with an information and advisory service to ensure that they are kept informed and adequately advised on occupational health and safety issues.
  • Make arrangements for and encourage research and publication on health and safety issues, training and information.
  • Propose regulations.

The HSE is legally obliged to keep the Secretary of State informed of any of its plans to make sure that they are in alignment with policy.

A further responsibility of the HSE is the Employment Medical Advisory Service whose purpose is to:

  • Ensure that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the HSE and others concerned with the health of employees and trainees are informed of and advised about any matters that are deemed relevant to the safeguarding and improvement of the health of employees and trainees.
  • Give employees and trainees the relevant information and advice on health.

The Employment Medical Advisory Service is staffed by doctors and nurses who specialise in occupational health and who are able to:

  • Assess how individual or group health is affected by work.
  • Advise on how an individual’s capacity for work is affected by his health.
  • Advise on workplace first aid provision
  • Support health promotion programmes.

The HSE has a Health and Safety Laboratory based in Buxton in Derbyshire.  The laboratory was established in 1921 under the Safety in Mines Research Board to carry out tests related to hazards in mines.  The laboratory employs more than 350 staff including engineers, scientists, psychologists, social scientists, health professionals and technical specialists.  The lab operates as an agency that carries out scientific research and investigations for the HSE, other government agencies and the private sector.

The HSE focuses on the regulation of health and safety in a wide range of sectors including:

  • Construction industries
  • Dock work
  • Fire Service
  • Mining
  • offshore oil and gas installations
  • Haulage
  • Agriculture
  • Gas supply and installation
  • Nuclear installations