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Health and Safety Executive

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Health and Safety Executive
Agency overview
Formed1 January 1975 (1 January 1975)
Preceding agencies
  • Railway Inspectorate
  • Factory Inspectorate
  • Mines Inspectorate
  • Explosives Inspectorate
  • Nuclear Installations Inspectorate
TypeCrown status non-departmental public body
HeadquartersBootle, Merseyside, England
Agency executives
Parent departmentDepartment for Work and Pensions
Key document

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a British public body responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare. It has additionally adopted a research role into occupational risks in the United Kingdom. It is a non-departmental public body with its headquarters in Bootle, England.[1] In Northern Ireland, these duties lie 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 and Road in April 2006.[2] 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.[3][4]


The Executive's duties are to:[5]

  • 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 health and safety 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.[6] The Secretary of State can give directions to the Executive.[7]

The Railway Inspectorate was transferred to HSE in 1990. On 1 April 2006, the Executive ceased to have responsibility for railway safety, when the Railway Inspectorate was transferred to the Office of Rail Regulation (now the Office of Rail and Road).[8]

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

Structure and responsibilities[edit]

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

Health and Safety Executive, Science Division[edit]

Based in Buxton, Derbyshire, the Health and Safety Executive Science Division (HSL- Health & Safety Laboratory) employs over 350 people including scientists, engineers, psychologists, social scientists, health professionals, and technical specialists.[9]

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.[10]

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.[9]

HM Inspectorate of Mines[edit]

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.[11]

Offshore Safety Division[edit]

The Offshore Safety Division (OSD) was established as a division within HSE in April 1991. This was in response to recommendations of the Cullen Inquiry into the Piper Alpha disaster on 6 July 1988. At the time of the disaster, the Department of Energy (DEn) was responsible for both production and offshore safety; this was perceived as entailing a conflict of interests. Dr Tony Barrell, Director of HSE's Technology and Air Pollution Division was appointed Chief Executive of OSD, having previously been seconded to the DEn to lead the transfer of responsibilities. At the same time, Ministerial oversight was transferred from the DEn to the Department of Employment. The Offshore Safety Act 1992 made the Mineral Workings (Offshore Installations) Act 1971 and its subsidiary Regulations relevant statutory provisions of the Health and Safety at work etc., Act 1974. The OSD's initial responsibilities included the establishment of the Safety Case Regulations; a thorough review of existing safety legislation and the move towards a goal setting regulatory regime. OSD became part of the HSE's new Hazardous Installations Directorate in 1999; it became part of the new Energy Division in 2013.

OSHCR (Occupational Safety & Health Consultants Register)[edit]

The HSE currently administers the Occupational Safety & Health Consultants Register (OSHCR), a central register of registered safety consultants within the United Kingdom. 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.[12]


Directors general of the Health and Safety Executive[edit]

List of directors general:[13]

The HSE and the Health and Safety Commission merged on 1 April 2008.

Deputy directors general of the Health and Safety Executive[edit]

  • Lois Audrey Pittom CB (b. 1918, d. 1990) 1975-78
  • Bryan Hugh Harvey (b. 1914, d. 2004) 1975-76
  • James Carver (b. 1916, d. 2007) 1976-77
  • Eric Williams (b. 1915, d. 1980) 1975-76
  • (Herbert) John Dunster CB (b. 1922, d. 2006) 1976-82
  • Dr Kenneth Playfair Duncan (b. 1924, d. 1999) 1982-84
  • David Charles Thomas Eves CB (b. 1942) 1989-2002
  • Jenny Helen Bacon CB (b. 1945) 1992-95
  • Richard Hillier CB 1996-2001
  • Kate Timms 2001-04
  • (James) Justin McCracken (b. 1955) 2002-08
  • Jonathan Rees 2004-08

The HSE and the Health and Safety Commission merged on 1 April 2008.

Chair and chief executive of the Health and Safety Executive[edit]


Chief Executives:

  • Geoffrey John Freeman Podger CB (b. 3 August 1952) 1 April 2008 – 31 August 2013
  • (Denis) Kevin Myers CBE (b. 30 September 1954) Acting Chief Executive 1 September 2013 – 9 November 2014
  • Richard Judge (b. 2 November 1962) 10 November 2014 – 17 August 2018[15]
  • David Snowball Acting Chief Executive 15 June 2018 – 1 September 2019[15][16]
  • Sarah Albon 1 September 2019 - date[16]

Heads of OSD[edit]

  • Dr Anthony (Tony) Charles Barrell (b.1933) CB, FEng, BSc, D Eng, FIChemE, Eur Ing (Chief Executive), April 1991 - June 1994
  • Roderick Stuart Allison (b.1936), CB, (Chief Executive) July 1994 - 1996
  • Dr Allan Douglas Sefton (b. 1945), 1996 - June 2000
  • T.A.F. Powell, June 2000 - December 2005
  • Ian Whewell, January 2006 - October 2009
  • Steve Walker, October 2009 - March 2013


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".[17] However, most criticism of the HSE is that their regulations are over-broad, suffocating, and part of a nanny state. The Daily Telegraph has claimed that the HSE is part of a "compensation culture," that it is undemocratic and unaccountable,[18] and that its rules are costing jobs.[19]

However, the HSE denies this,[20] 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'".[21][22] 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."[23]

Areas of regulation[edit]

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


  1. ^ "HSE offices". Health & Safety Executive. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  2. ^ Health and Safety Executive. "The history of HSE". hse.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 30 January 2019. Retrieved 11 August 2019.
  3. ^ Department for Work and Pensions (1 April 2008). "Health and Safety Commission and Health and Safety Executive merge to form a single regulatory body" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 July 2009. Retrieved 6 April 2008.
  4. ^ Legislative Reform (Health and Safety Executive) Order 2008, SI 2008/960
  5. ^ Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, s.11(2)
  6. ^ Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, s.11(3)
  7. ^ Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, s.12
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ a b "HSL Annual Report and Accounts 2010/2011" (PDF). nationalarchives.gov.uk. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  10. ^ www.hsl.gov.uk Archived 13 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine A Century of Science
  11. ^ "Health and safety in mining". www.hse.gov.uk. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  12. ^ "About OSHCR on the HSE website". Hse.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 14 August 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  13. ^ "Who's Who". www.ukwhoswho.com. Archived from the original on 17 November 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  14. ^ "Sarah Newton appointed as new Chair of HSE". gov.uk.
  15. ^ a b Knutt, Elaine (20 August 2018). "HSE's Richard Judge steps down as annual report shows drop in prosecutions". healthandsafetyatwork.com. Archived from the original on 11 August 2019. Retrieved 11 August 2019.
  16. ^ a b Green, Jason (27 June 2019). "New Chief Executive for HSE". HSE Media Centre. Archived from the original on 29 July 2019. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  17. ^ "HSE response to Stockline 'too little, too late'". Daily Herald. 30 August 2009. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
  18. ^ "David Cameron declares war on the "nonsense" of the "over-the-top health and safety culture" The Tory Diary". Conservativehome.blogs.com. 1 December 2009. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  19. ^ Political, Deputy (27 August 2010). "Health and safety laws are costing jobs". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 6 September 2010.
  20. ^ Dudman, Jane (30 June 2010). "Dispelling the myths around health and safety". The Guardian. London.
  21. ^ "Busting the health and safety myths". Hse.gov.uk. 30 June 2014. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  22. ^ "HSE and local authorities hit back at 'health and Safety' myths". HSE. 3 July 2007. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
  23. ^ "Common Sense Common Safety: A report by Lord Young of Graffham to the Prime Minister" (PDF). HM Government. p. 9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 September 2012.

External links[edit]