Protecting people and places: HSE Strategy 2022 to 2032February 2023
The HSE has faced growing responsibilities following its appointment as the Building Safety Regulator (“BSR”) and enhanced chemical regulation role post-Brexit. These new responsibilities combined with external factors, such as new technologies in the workplace, the government’s net zero agenda commitment and the growing gig economy, have required the HSE to evaluate how it intends to remain relevant in the future. As we prepare for the implementation of the new regime, we review the HSE’s 10-year strategy which includes its role as the BSR.
The HSE published its 2022 to 2032 strategy last year: “Protecting People and Places” (the “Strategy”). The Strategy focuses on how the HSE can adapt and respond during times of significant change and demonstrates that the organisation is adapting to fulfil a broader role.
The fundamental principle continues to be ensuring that those who create the risk, take responsibility for controlling risk and to hold those accountable that do not comply. The HSE intends to realise these redefined priorities by embracing the different means available to deliver its work.
The plan establishes five strategic objectives that the HSE intends to commit to during the next ten years, which include to:
- Reduce work-related ill health, with a specific focus on mental health and stress;
- Increase and maintain trust to ensure people are safe where they live, where they work and in their environment;
- Enable safe innovation within industry that supports the move towards net zero whilst preventing major incidents;
- Maintain Great Britain’s record as one of the safest countries to work in; and
- Ensure the HSE is a great place to work and that exceptional people are attracted and retained.
1. Reduce work-related ill health
Despite having one of the lowest rates of fatal and non-fatal work-related injuries across Europe, current trends indicate that work-related ill health is on the rise in Great Britain. Depression, stress or anxiety are the most commonly reported causes of ill health in Great Britain, which the HSE intends to tackle by delivering interventions that make a real difference via its collective resource. The HSE acknowledge that in order to have a greater impact on workers’ health, society and the economy, its assistance will be required in the wider industry and business as well.
This is a new challenge for the HSE, as its previous objectives did not mention mental health. Its ability to advance workplace understanding of physical risks and to establish safety standards, will only assist them to a certain extent, as the risks and harm presented by mental health extend beyond a work premises and into people’s homes. Businesses will need to recognise that work-related injuries need to be identified and managed differently to physical risk, as home-based employees are exposed to different risks.
2. Ensure people are safe where they live, work and in its environment
A key principle of the Building Safety Act 2022 relates to the statutory duty holder regime, which aims to increase accountability and competence within the built environment sector. Part 2 of the Act provides that the HSE are England’s BSR. Consequently, the BSR role considerably extends the HSE’s existing roles and responsibilities to include assisting duty holders with realising competence within the built environment industry. The new role will be key to assisting duty holders with understanding and complying with industry standards in order to regain people’s trust in a safe built environment industry following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
This is another commitment which stems beyond workplaces and targets a wider audience including residents. The HSE intends to realise this commitment by adopting a similar approach to that adopted in major hazard settings, however, this new role raises questions about the organisation’s capacity to maintain its focus on its traditional health and safety work without considerable additional funding.
3. Supporting the safe move towards net zero
In order to align the industry with the government’s net zero target for 2050, the HSE identify the new risks the industry faces with the development of innovative technologies and processes to assist the transition to a carbon neutral economy. The HSE’s main focus will be on the breadth of activities that net zero encompasses and an early priority is its work to address safety implications of using hydrogen for decarbonisation. The organisation intends to apply its expert knowledge and capability to help businesses understand both known and unknown risk with the long-term objective of establishing businesses as world leaders in net zero.
It is clear that the HSE do not intend to use its powers to block the necessary innovation but, instead, they wish to collaborate with technology developers during the creation process in order to understand and manage the new risks presented. Businesses should remain live to any changes in legislation or recurring enforcement decisions as these risks advance over time.
4. Maintain Great Britain’s record as one of the safest countries to work in
To uphold the record as one of the safest countries to work in, the HSE are calling on the industry to secure and maintain improvements in health and safety. The fundamental principle of health and safety law remains which is that those who create risks are best placed to manage them. An increased level of understanding of safety risks means that the HSE will look to regulate the industry in a multitude of ways with a particular focus on improving workplace health.
5. Ensure the HSE is a great place to work
The final objective demonstrates a commitment from the HSE to maintain its high standards to ensure that those working for them can deliver and achieve its goals. The HSE intend to meet the current and future needs of the country by maintaining a highly skilled organisation with a flexible and motivated workforce. Prioritising such an objective will be key for the HSE’s new role as BSR as it seeks to implement and maintain industry standards.
The Strategy also establishes six themes that underpin and guide the regulatory activities over the next ten years to create an organisation that is relevant, fair and just, people-focused, collaborative, financially viable and accessible.
Although the HSE will continue to review its regulatory framework to ensure it provides the necessary protection during times of innovation, the organisation intends to use its interventional powers differently to deal with emerging risks and challenges. In order to stay relevant, the HSE will stop work that no longer aligns with its organisational objectives.
Nonetheless, the Strategy is underpinned by the HSE being a responsible regulator and appropriate and proportionate enforcement action will be taken against those businesses that do not comply with the law or those that create risk by cutting corners.
Lastly, to ensure the organisation remains accessible and fair, the HSE are focusing on the development of its digital capabilities. The organisation intends to use new technologies to ensure that it extends its reach to wider audiences that might not currently be engaged, whilst using data and intelligence to direct its resources and expertise appropriately.
The Strategy is the HSE’s broadest strategy to date with objectives that prioritise both long-standing and modern hazards. Overall, the Strategy identifies emerging risks which require increased regulation and enforcement by the HSE. On the other hand, there is a possibility that these new challenges may divert attention and resources away from the traditional risks. It will be interesting to see what these new and different approaches mentioned will materialise, how the HSE will balance the differing objectives over the next decade and the response that the industry will face as a result. A link to the strategy paper can be found here.
Beale & Co have extensive experience in dealing with HSE investigations for all the key duty holder roles. For further information on the issues addressed in this article and for assistance with any involvement with the HSE please contact Jo Lewis (firstname.lastname@example.org or 02074690444).Download PDF