HSE consider their key achievements over the past 12 months to be:

  • Leading and engaging with others to improve workplace health & safety
  • Providing an effective regulatory framework
  • Securing effective management and control of risk
  • Reducing likelihood of low-frequency, high – impact catastrophic incidents
  • Enabling improvement through efficient and effective delivery

HSE reports that following measures announced in January 2020 by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, a package of measures will be introduced to help ensure that high – risk buildings are safe for people to occupy following the Grenfell Tower Tragedy. Such measures will include HSE developing a new Building Safety Regulator (BSR) which will sit within HSE in England. The BSR will oversee the design, construction and occupation of high – risk buildings.

Performance overview

In summary, for the year 2018/2019, HSE reports the following key health & safety statistics:

  • there were 1.4 million work related ill health cases (new or long standing)
  • there 0.6 million work related stress, depression or anxiety cases (new or long standing)
  • there were 0.5 million work related musculoskeletal disorder cases (new or long standing)
  • there were 0.6 million workers who sustained a non-fatal injury
  • employers reported 69,208 non-fatal injuries
  • there were 147 fatal injuries to workers
  • the annual costs of workplace injury were £5.2 billion
  • 28.2 million working days were lost due to work related ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries
  • 12,000 lung disease deaths each year can be linked to past exposures at work
  • there were 2,526 mesothelioma deaths in 2017, with a similar number of lung cancer deaths linked to past exposures to asbestos
  • the annual cost of work related injury and new cases of ill health (excluding long latency illnesses such as cancer) were £15 billion

HSE performance at a glance

For the 2019/2020 period, HSE spent £230.9m in total (£95.4m of which came from income and cost recovery, whilst £135.5m came from taxpayer funding). HSE reports that it handled over 32, 000 concerns about workplaces and activities during this period.

In terms of Enforcement, HSE completed 355 prosecutions and has a 95% success rate for convictions. It also issued over 7000 notices (broken down as 5000 improvement notices and 1900 prohibition notices).

In terms of fatal investigations, 75% were completed within 12 months of receiving primacy, which was slightly below HSE's target of 80%.

HSE also undertook over 13,300 proactive inspections of premises. The most inspected sector by far was waste and recycling, where almost a third of all premises were inspected (approximately 30 premises). A full breakdown of the remaining inspections is as follows:

  • Food and drink – approx. 700 inspections were undertaken, equating to 1 in 5 manufacturing premises
  • Fabricated metals – approx. 600 inspections were undertaken, equating to 1 in 18 manufacturing premises
  • Construction – approx. 1700 inspections were delivered
  • Asbestos – approx. 900 inspections were delivered
  • Woodworking – approx. 50 inspections were undertaken, equating to 1 in 10 premises
  • Following HSE inspections, 90% of duty holders said they had taken action as a result of a visit, whilst 82% said the outcome of the visit was proportionate to risks identified.

Looking forward

HSE's mission for the next 12 months remains to prevent death, injury and ill health to those at work and those affected by work activities. One of its key objectives is to establish a safety building regulator in shadow form (in England)

Performance analysis

HSE has analysed its performance in terms of progress against its priorities for the year.

This year the HSE focussed in part on tackling ill health through the Health and Work programme. HSE's overall approach has been to foster collaborative relationships with other parts of government in order to deal with the issue of work-related ill health. HSE has signed a partnership agreement with Healthy Working Wales and is in the process of establishing an agreement with the new Public Health Scotland body, with the aim of establishing close working arrangements to ensure consistency of policy application, idea sharing and progress monitoring.

HSE has also prioritised musculoskeletal disorders, the second most reported cause of work-related ill health in Britain. A programme of interventions, including regulatory inspections and communications activity, was carried out with an emphasis on the manufacturing sector. In addition, research conducted on behavioural change within the transport and logistics sectors has led to the development of a programme of interventions for 2020/2021.

A further focus has been on reducing exposure to substances causing occupational lung disease, estimated to result in around 12,000 deaths per year. A proactive approach has been taken to reducing exposure to carcinogens and asthmagens, for example wood dust in woodworking premises and flour dust in bakeries.

A final focus of the HSE this year has been on work-related stress. Stress, depression and anxiety are the most commonly reported causes of work-related ill health, accounting for 54% of all working days lost due to ill health. HSE has prioritised developing tools to support the management of stress in different sectors, publishing bespoke work-related stress material for public sector organisations in the form of 'Talking Toolkits'.

HSE has also been concerned with promoting proportionality in health and safety management. SMEs feel that health and safety is excessively demanding, particularly when 'rules' are set by third parties in the form of 'blue tape'. A major report published by HSE outlines the impacts of business-to-business health and safety rules and HSE has been working with businesses and standards-making bodies to promote a more proportionate approach, to ensure that SME's concentrate on controlling risk in practice rather than risk assessment and paperwork.

HSE continues to share learning from its expert science and research with those responsible for workplace health and safety. HSE's Chief Scientific Adviser provides an independent challenge function for HSE to ensure that its scientific advice is robust. The knowledge accumulated has been shared with those who need it in order to ensure that the data is used to improve performance whilst protecting the health and safety of employees and the public.

Providing an effective regulatory framework

HSE has been supporting the fundamental reform of the building safety system following the Grenfell Tower disaster, with the aim of transforming the regulatory and accountability framework for building safety. HSE has worked in partnership with government bodies to share its knowledge of regulating the construction industry and has supported the design of a more robust safety regime for high risk buildings culminating in the Building Safety Reform Bill.

The Building Safety Regulator, which will oversee the design, construction and occupation of high-risk buildings, will be established as part of HSE. Additionally, HSE has been carrying out inspections of cladding material to feed back into suggestions around changes to fire legislation. The biggest area of non-compliance was found to be in general fire precautions, enforceable by Fire and Rescue Authorities.

The UK's withdrawal from the EU required changes to the chemicals regime and HSE has worked closely with stakeholders in the chemicals industry as well as Defra and other key regulators to develop a suite of regimes for regulating the supply and use of chemicals. This work will be ongoing throughout 2020/2021 to take account of further negotiations between the UK and the EU.

Secure effective management of control and risk

This year, HSE has targeted its inspections on specific issues and activities, with a sustained focus on work-related ill health. HSE's woodworking campaign focused intervention activity with communications to tackle the significant health risks that come with exposure to wood dust. Of around 650 inspections, non-compliance was found in over half which suggests a change is required in intervention approach to ensure that dutyholders improve their management and control of risks. HSE continues to raise awareness across high-risk industries.

Inspections in the food and drink manufacturing industry have focussed on musculoskeletal disorders (from handling heavy loads and repetitive tasks) and the control of asthmagens (arising from flour dust in bakeries). Approximately 1 in 5 relevant premises across the UK were visited, with HSE identifying failures in around 35% of businesses.

Another programme of inspections focussed on the control of carcinogens and asthmagens associated with manufacturing fabricated metals. Significant attention was paid to welding fume risk following new scientific evidence which found that exposure can lead to lung and possibly kidney cancer. Wide-ranging engagement with stakeholders and the industry was carried out, which explained necessary control improvements and included issuing a safety alert, updated guidance and communication.

In the waste and recycling sector, inspection activity focused on the management of maintenance activities and safe isolation practices to prevent accidents. Levels of non-compliance at newly inspected sites remained high but there were noted improvements in previously inspected premises. HSE has begun work to improve behaviours to promote compliance in the industry.

HSE has noted a continued high rate of workplace injuries, ill health and fatalities in the agriculture industry and continues an inspection programme consisting of end-to-end interventions, using partner activities to support inspection and address areas of high risk and concern.

Construction remains a hazardous industry and HSE has focussed two initiatives on respiratory risk inspection campaigns, carrying out around 1700 inspections across the industry. The highest risk was found amongst smaller employers and findings have been shared with CONIAN and the Asbestos Leadership Council to highlight the improvements needed.

Finally, HSE has focused inspections on fairgrounds. Industry performance is comparatively good however several high profile incidents highlight the risk of failure or incorrect operation of some rides which can result in serious injury or fatality. Focus has been on the standards of inspection and maintenance of rides and control of risks associated with inflatables. HSE delivered a training event for inspection bodies to address poor testing practices within the industry and also contributed to a review of the Amusement Devices Safety Council to improve governance arrangements.

Fatal and non-fatal investigations

There is a considerable focus on completing investigations within a 12 months of HSE assuming primacy for the incident – 75% of fatal investigations and 90% of non-fatal investigations were successfully completed within this timeframe.

The HSE highlights that they will prosecute those who commit serious breaches of the law. There have been 7 prosecutions resulting in fines over £1 million and 54 HSE prosecutions resulting in custodial or community services/rehabilitation orders. The number of prosecutions that the HSE has taken has reduced each year since 2016. This is likely due to the introduction of sentencing guidelines for H&S prosecutions which came into force in February 2016, which have generally led to prosecutions becoming increasingly complex with a greater focus on the most serious cases. Average fines per offence and total fines levied by HSE have significantly increased since 2016.

Safe use of potentially harmful substances

The HSE has evaluated and made regulatory decisions in relation to pesticides and biocides. This work is demand-led but Brexit preparations have resulted in challenges being faced in meeting targets.

The HSE highlights the continued prevalence of asbestos in buildings and the importance of adequately controlling it. To ensure compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, a programme of inspections of individual licensed contractors was conducted. The process for asbestos licence applications has also become increasingly digitalised.

Feedback and responding to enquiries from the public

The HSE received over 32,000 concerns about workplaces and activities over the year. The vast majority of respondents had positive attitudes in relation to inspections and 90% of respondents said that they had taken action as a result of a visit.

Reduce the likelihood of low-frequency high-impact catastrophic incidents

The HSE delivered a programme of inspections to address priority areas at major hazard sites, with a particular focus on improving underperforming duty holders. There has also been a key focus on promoting effective leadership to encourage ownership and responsibility of risk.

High-rise homes: gas network management

In response to the Grenfell fire, the HSE undertook a programme of inspections on gas network installations. Network operators were found to be broadly compliant with the legal requirements and appropriate action was taken by the HSE to ensure that any problems were addressed.

Offshore hydrocarbon releases

The number of minor leaks continues to fall year on year, however, there have been several major releases in recent years. The HSE has launched an action plan to reduce the number of major hyrdrocarbon releases, which promotes active workforce engagement, constant vigilance and regular auditing.

Cyber Security

The National Cyber Security Centre has indicated that threat levels to cyber security within the UK's major hazard industries are increasing. The HSE's aim is to raise operators' focus on cyber security through targeted inspections and engaging with stakeholders.

Enabling improvement through efficient and effective delivery

In 2019/20, the HSE invested in its computing infrastructure and workforce to maximise the potential of its resources. The HSE's expenditure in 2019/20 was £8m higher than in previous years, which was facilitated by the additional funding that it received.

Looking ahead, it is estimated that the impact of COVID-19 on HSE's financial position during 2020/21 will be a net increase in costs of between £18m and £25m.

Delivery of planned milestones

  • HSE has delivered 80% of its planned milestones within the year. Areas in which it has not delivered include:
    • Leading and engaging with others to improve public workplace health and safety by establishing a partnership agreement with the new Public Health Scotland body.
    • Securing effective management and control of risk by targeting inspections of:
      • Manufacturing – Fabricated metals with inspections being at 1 in 15 premises
      • Agriculture - Programme of inspections to 10% of businesses invited to attend an agricultural compliance event.
      • Fatal investigations – Complete 80% of fatal investigations within 12 months of HSE receiving primacy.
      • Chemicals – To complete plant protection product evaluations and authorisations within the relevant deadlines.
    • Delay in relation to inspections has occurred due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on activities.
    • Reducing the likelihood of low-frequency, high-impact catastrophic incidents by providing assurance that duty holders are identifying and managing the major hazard risks. In this respect, HSE has not rolled out its three-year intervention strategy to 95% of Control of Major Accident Hazards establishments.
    • Improvement through efficient and effective delivery by developing its strategy through presenting a proposal to develop an outcome-based performance framework which aligns to the new strategy to the HSE Board for agreement and to implement IT assurance review recommendations as agreed by Executive Committee
    • Support people to be the best they can through publishing new arrangements for how HSE prevent mental ill health, promote wellbeing and support colleagues where the need arises and achieve an average working-days lost of 6.0 days per full-time equivalent. HSE also failed to achieve an Engagement Index of 57% (a 3% improvement) as measured through the Civil Service People Survey.
    • HSE's Business Plan milestones in respect of diversity tasks and a decrease in bullying and harassment.

Sustainable development

This section provides a description of the activities undertaken to assist in the continuous improvement of environmental performance and management. These relate to implementing energy-saving technologies and strategies such as minimising travel, using utilities in a responsible and economic way, managing waste and sourcing materials and assets that comply with Government Buying Standards.

The document provides a summary of HSE's performance against the Greening Government Commitments (GGC) which shows HSE are in line with the government reduction target.

Accountability – Corporate governance report

Current Position

This section explains HSE’s governance structures and how these structures support the achievement of its objectives. It provides an assessment of the impact of COVID-19. The impact on the 2019/20 financial position has been immaterial. HSE has delivered a small underspend on income and expenditure and has increased the impairment of its debt balance to take account of the wider economic impact. HSE has also revalued its two PFI properties and has been advised that less certainty can be attached to the valuation than would otherwise be the case.

HSE anticipates that the effect on HSE operations during 2020/21 will be material as while regulatory work has continued throughout the lockdown in certain areas, the closure of many businesses and the health, safety and wellbeing of its own staff mean that it will undertake less cost recoverable and commercial work. HSE expects a significant reduction in income and will inevitably require additional funding from government.

Principal areas of focus in 2019/20 for HSE's Board included:

  • Development of HSE's strategy which will be taken forward during 2020/21.
  • A review of the effectiveness of the Statement of Commitment about HSE’s relationship with local authorities.
  • The introduction of a new binding exposure limit for crystalline silica dust in mines (through an amendment to the Mines Regulations 2014);
  • Proposals included in revised fees regulations for the recovery of costs incurred for approvals/advice in specific regimes
  • Exploring options to work more collaboratively with government science
  • HSE establishing a new Building Safety Regulator in England. Dame Judith Hackitt, who led the government review of building regulations and fire safety, will chair a board to oversee the transition.
  • The Board reviewed and updated its risk appetite.
  • The conclusion was that the Board continued to be effective in discharging its role but needed to focus on becoming less operational and work more on the Board’s risk appetite.
  • Sub-Committees

The document provides an overview of the sub- committees:

  • The People and Remuneration Committee provides assurance to the HSE Board on people and Capability issues including pay policy.
  • The Science, Engineering and Evidence Assurance Committee provides assurance to the HSE Board on the quality and relevance of its science and engineering strategy and delivery.
  • The Audit and Risk Committee advises the Board and the Accounting Officer on whether HSE’s audit and risk assurance arrangements support its strategic aims and enable the efficient, effective and economic conduct of business that are tolerable within the Board’s stated risk appetite. In a review it was identified that in the areas of Fraud, Bribery and Corruption improved assurances were needed.
  • The Executive Management Committee (ExCo) - ExCo is accountable to the HSE Board for delivery of its strategy and objectives, and to Parliament for effective day to day management of HSE.

While reviewing its governance arrangements the ExCo decided in June 2019 to disband the Extended Management Board but to retain insight into operational matters and performance of Operational Directors; bring key staffing and expenditure business decisions within the direct remit of ExCo; and delegate more responsibility for day to day staffing and expenditure to ExCo members for their Divisions. The purpose of these changes is to improve effective decision making.

New sub-committees:

  • Strategic Design Authority - to ensure HSE have the right business and operating model in place
  • Portfolio Board - responsible for governance of all significant change projects and maintaining the overall HSE Change Governance Framework.
  • Operations and Regulation committee - responsible for reviewing and improving the performance of the operational divisions and the effectiveness of regulatory processes.
  • Health, Safety and Wellbeing - for joint consultation between management and unions on health and safety matters.

Review of governance effectiveness

First line of defence

  • The review found that HSE has longstanding governance and management.
  • When improvements are identified action is taken as evidenced HSE’s response to control challenges highlighted in the 2018/19 Annual Governance Statement.
  • HSE has a well-established policy to support whistleblowers and employee concerns. The review found that there were very low numbers of whistleblowing concerns raised. In 2019/20 one case was raised and, following an investigation, was not upheld.
  • The 2019 Civil Service People Survey, indicated that the majority of staff knew how to raise a concern and had confidence that any concerns would be investigated.

Second line of defence

  • HSE has developed a dedicated business assurance team whose initial focus has been on bringing improvements in relation to assurance planning and reporting.
  • Risk management is a key aspect of HSE’s internal control framework. During the year key risks that were likely to impact on its ability to meet its objectives were identified and assessed for likelihood and impact. Each risk is owned by a Director and is reviewed by ExCo at each monthly meeting. Additionally, the Audit Risk and Assurance Committee (ARAC) scrutinise the effectiveness of the risk management framework though quarterly meetings.

The most significant risks addressed in 2019/20 were:

  • risks in relation to the UK moving out of the transition period in December 2020
  • risks pertaining to HSE’s role as the new Building Safety Regulator
  • management of Health, Safety and Wellbeing risks to staff to ensure HSE are an exemplar
  • managing financial resources effectively
  • COVID-19 and ensuring the effectiveness of planned and implemented control systems during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on staff
  • All members of the Executive Committee provided a letter of assurance that outlined the effectiveness of systems of governance within their areas of responsibility
  • Report of the Senior Information Risk Owner - A number of areas, such as GDPR require continued management attention
  • Report of HSE’s Data Protection Officer - the work has identified some areas of risk which need further work in order to strengthen the compliance position, including the possibility of a DPO review of the Gas Safe Register contractor related breaches. There have been 61 data breaches reported to the HSE DPO during 19/20 of which 5 were reportable to the Information Commissioners Officer (ICO).

Third line of defence -

  • Annual Report of Internal Audit - The Head of Internal Audit has provided an overall moderate opinion for 2019/20, indicating some improvements are required to enhance the adequacy and effectiveness of the framework of governance.
  • The report identified two specific areas where there were significant concerns; namely:
  • the lack of consistent and effective first and second line regulatory assurance over the work of the operational divisions; and
  • compliance with General Data Protection Regulations and Data Sharing with Third Parties.
  • Shared Services Connected Limited (SSCL) assurance - SSCL operates employee-related/HR, procurement and IT processes to HSE. The report prepared in relation to SSCL's performance is ‘generally satisfactory with some improvements required’.
  • HSE Tailored Review - DWP has confirmed HSE has implemented all the recommendations which were made by the Tailored Review which was undertaken by DWP in 2018/19.
  • Complaints reported to Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman - 25 enquiries received, 8 were assessed and 0 complaints were upheld.
  • Update on control issues reported in 2018/19 -
    • Following a Notice of Contravention in 2018/19 for the suitability of a risk assessment in an experimental area, HSE developed a new ‘Authority to Operate Process’ which ensures it operates with risks controlled as low as reasonably practicable.
    • Last year there had been breaches of the Civil Service Recruitment Principles in relation to a recruitment. Additional safeguards were put in place and there has since been improved compliance with the principles and policies.
    • Salary overpayments - HSE began to improve controls to prevent salary overpayments in 2018/19 after an audit in the previous year identified that this was an area for improvement. New management information has enabled much better monitoring.

Accounting Officer’s conclusion

HSE has agreed a series of actions to address the concerns raised within the audit reports and the relevant Boards and Committees will monitor their implementation. HSE will review its approach to regulatory assurance during 2020/21. The conclusion is that HSE overall has satisfactory governance, risk management and internal control systems.