Unsurprisingly, not even the HSE is immune from Government cutbacks - they have been required to make a minimum of 35% savings in their reliance on public funding over the next four years. So, how do they plan doing it?
The usual efficiency savings are being looked at, however, most interesting (or worrying) is the encouragement from Ministers to look at ways in which HSE can replace Government funding with income from other sources. This is particularly interesting when one considers that in approximately one third of its work (major hazards, off shore and nuclear) HSE already recovers all of their costs from those they regulate, that's a big saving to achieve.
The good news for hard pressed businesses out there is that HSE are working on a proposal to charge those who HSE decide create risks. A so-called: “fee for fault” principle.
The idea is that those who are found not to be compliant with the law during an inspection by HSE should be charged for the work HSE does following the issuing of a notice or other requirement for action to rectify the fault they have found.
Whilst HSE believe that this approach is fair and equitable - their belief is that it will be welcomed by the vast majority of businesses who are compliant and who see those who take short cuts as getting away with an unfair competitive advantage - it is difficult to see it as anything other than a likely new cost for the generally compliant businesses HSE believe will welcome it.
And where do businesses make savings to pay for this potential new cost? In construction, the answer may well be training.
A recent CITB survey showed that more than a third (35%) of construction businesses in the UK reduced their training activity in 2010, with 18% planning to scale back training even further in 2011. What should be more worrying for the HSE is that, across the UK, 8% of businesses reported a reduction in their training support for health and safety. Food for thought.