Health and Safety Executive
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a non-departmental public body
Non-departmental public body
In the United Kingdom, a non-departmental public body —often referred to as a quango—is a classification applied by the Cabinet Office, Treasury, Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive to certain types of public bodies...

 in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. It is the body responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare
Occupational safety and health
Occupational safety and health is a cross-disciplinary area concerned with protecting the safety, health and welfare of people engaged in work or employment. The goal of all occupational safety and health programs is to foster a safe work environment...

, and for research into occupational risk
Risk is the potential that a chosen action or activity will lead to a loss . The notion implies that a choice having an influence on the outcome exists . Potential losses themselves may also be called "risks"...

s in England and Wales
England and Wales
England and Wales is a jurisdiction within the United Kingdom. It consists of England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom...

 and Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. Responsibility in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

 lies with the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland
Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland
The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland is a Northern Ireland non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. It is responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of occupational health and safety in 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 Regulation
Office of Rail Regulation
The Office of Rail Regulation is a statutory board which is the combined economic and safety regulatory authority for Great Britain's railway network. It was established on 5 July 2004 by the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, replacing the Rail Regulator...

 in April 2006. The HSE is sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions
Department for Work and Pensions
The Department for Work and Pensions is the largest government department in the United Kingdom, created on June 8, 2001 from the merger of the employment part of the Department for Education and Employment and the Department of Social Security and headed by the Secretary of State for Work and...

. As part of its work HSE investigates industrial accidents, small and large, including major incidents such as the explosion
An explosion is a rapid increase in volume and release of energy in an extreme manner, usually with the generation of high temperatures and the release of gases. An explosion creates a shock wave. If the shock wave is a supersonic detonation, then the source of the blast is called a "high explosive"...

 and fire
Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion are not included by this definition....

 at Buncefield
2005 Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal fire
The Buncefield fire was a major conflagration caused by a series of explosions on 11 December 2005 at the Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal, an oil storage facility located near the M1 motorway by Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, England. The terminal was the fifth largest oil-products...

 in 2005. Though it formerly reported to the Health and Safety Commission
Health and Safety Commission
The Health and Safety Commission , was a United Kingdom non-departmental public body. The HSC was created by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 . The Commission consisted of a chairman and between six and nine other people, appointed by the appropriate Secretary of State, latterly the...

, on 1 April 2008, the two bodies merged.


The Executive's duties are to:
  • 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
    The term training refers to the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies. It forms the core of apprenticeships and provides the backbone of content at institutes of...

     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 regulations
    Health and safety regulations in the United Kingdom
    In the United Kingdom there are many regulations relevant to health, safety and welfare at work. Many of these give effect to European Union directives.-Regulations made under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974:...


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. The Secretary of State can give directions to the Executive.

On 1 April 2006, the Executive ceased to have responsibility for railway safety.

The Executive is responsible for the Employment Medical Advisory Service
Employment Medical Advisory Service
The Employment Medical Advisory Service is a statutory public service in Great Britain operated as part of the Field Operations Directorate of the Health and Safety Executive.-Purpose:...

, which operates as part of its Field Operations Directorate.

Structure and responsibilities

Local authorities
Local government in the United Kingdom
The pattern of local government in England is complex, with the distribution of functions varying according to the local arrangements. Legislation concerning local government in England is decided by the Parliament and Government of the United Kingdom, because England does not have a devolved...

 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

Explosives Inspectorate

HSE's Explosives Inspectorate enforces the legislation for the classification and transport of explosives. It licenses manufacturing and larger storage sites.

The Health and Safety Laboratory

Based in Buxton
Buxton is a spa town in Derbyshire, England. It has the highest elevation of any market town in England. Located close to the county boundary with Cheshire to the west and Staffordshire to the south, Buxton is described as "the gateway to the Peak District National Park"...

, Derbyshire, the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) employs over 350 people including scientists, engineers, psychologists, social scientists, health professionals and technical specialists. The services they provide include:
  • Research and development
  • Specialist advice and consultancy
  • Forensic investigation into the causes of accidents
  • Environmental and biological monitoring
  • Assessment of levels of risk and investigation of their control
  • Establishing realistic requirements for standards, and processes for meeting those standards
  • Validation and certification

HM Inspectorate of Mines

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
Sheffield is a city and metropolitan borough of South Yorkshire, England. Its name derives from the River Sheaf, which runs through the city. Historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and with some of its southern suburbs annexed from Derbyshire, the city has grown from its largely...

, South Yorkshire
South Yorkshire
South Yorkshire is a metropolitan county in the Yorkshire and the Humber region of England. It has a population of 1.29 million. It consists of four metropolitan boroughs: Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, and City of Sheffield...


Nuclear Directorate

The Nuclear Directorate was one of the bodies merged into the Office for Nuclear Regulation
Office for Nuclear Regulation
The Office for Nuclear Regulation is the regulator for the civil nuclear industry in the United Kingdom. Created on 1 April 2011, the ONR is formed from the merger of the Health and Safety Executive's Nuclear Directorate and, from 1 June 2011, the Department for Transport's...

 on 1 April 2011. Largely based in Bootle
Bootle is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton in Merseyside, England, and a 'Post town' in the L postcode area. Formally known as Bootle-cum-Linacre, the town is 4 miles  to the north of Liverpool city centre, and has a total resident population of 77,640.Historically part of...

, the Nuclear Directorate had four main functions:
  • nuclear safety and radioactive waste management of civilian and defence sites - Nuclear Installations Inspectorate
  • security of civilian nuclear sites and nuclear transport - The Office for Nuclear Security (transferred to HSE April 2007)
  • safeguarding civilian nuclear material to prevent diversion to weapons - UK Safeguards Office (transferred to HSE April 2007)
  • a nuclear safety research programme


The HSE has been criticised. Some of the criticism has been that its procedures are inadequate to protect safety. For example, the public enquiry by Lord Gill into the Stockline Plastics factory explosion
Stockline Plastics factory explosion
On May 11, 2004, the ICL Plastics factory , in the Woodside district of Glasgow in western Scotland, exploded. Nine people were killed, including two company directors, and 33 injured, 15 seriously...

 criticised the HSE for "inadequate appreciation of the risks associated with buried LPG pipework ... and a failure properly to carry out check visits". However, most criticism of the HSE is that their regulations are over-broad, suffocating, and part of a nanny state
Nanny state
A nanny state is the perception of a situation characterised by governmental policies of over-protectionism, economic interventionism, or heavy regulation of economic, social or other nature....

. The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph is a daily morning broadsheet newspaper distributed throughout the United Kingdom and internationally. The newspaper was founded by Arthur B...

, a right-wing broadsheet, has also been claimed that the HSE is part of a "compensation culture," that it is undemocratic and unaccountable, that its rules are costing jobs.

However, the HSE denies this, 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’". 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."

Areas of Regulation

The HSE focuses regulation of health and safety in the following sectors of industry:
  • Agriculture
    Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

  • Air transport
  • Armed forces
    Armed forces
    The armed forces of a country are its government-sponsored defense, fighting forces, and organizations. They exist to further the foreign and domestic policies of their governing body, and to defend that body and the nation it represents from external aggressors. In some countries paramilitary...

  • Catering and hospitality
  • Construction
    In the fields of architecture and civil engineering, construction is a process that consists of the building or assembling of infrastructure. Far from being a single activity, large scale construction is a feat of human multitasking...

  • Crown
    The Crown
    The Crown is a corporation sole that in the Commonwealth realms and any provincial or state sub-divisions thereof represents the legal embodiment of governance, whether executive, legislative, or judicial...

  • Chemical manufacture and storage industries
  • Professional diving
  • Dockwork
    Shipyards and dockyards are places which repair and build ships. These can be yachts, military vessels, cruise liners or other cargo or passenger ships. Dockyards are sometimes more associated with maintenance and basing activities than shipyards, which are sometimes associated more with initial...

  • Education
    Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts...

     sector e.g. schools
  • Engineering
    Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of...

  • Entertainment
    Entertainment consists of any activity which provides a diversion or permits people to amuse themselves in their leisure time. Entertainment is generally passive, such as watching opera or a movie. Active forms of amusement, such as sports, are more often considered to be recreation...

     and leisure
    Leisure, or free time, is time spent away from business, work, and domestic chores. It is also the periods of time before or after necessary activities such as eating, sleeping and, where it is compulsory, education....

  • Fire service
  • Food and drink manufacture
  • Footwear and leather industries
  • Haulage
    Haulage may refer to:* The business of being a haulier or hauler , also called haulage contractor, common carrier, contract carrier, or private carrier, in other words of transporting goods by road or rail for other companies or one's own company.* The horizontal transport of ore, coal, supplies,...

  • Health Services
    National Health Service
    The National Health Service is the shared name of three of the four publicly funded healthcare systems in the United Kingdom. They provide a comprehensive range of health services, the vast majority of which are free at the point of use to residents of the United Kingdom...

     e.g. hospitals
  • Gas supply and installation; Gas Safe Register
    Gas Safe Register
    The Gas Safe Register is the official registration scheme in the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Guernsey for installers and maintenance engineers dealing with natural gas appliances...

  • Laundries and dry-cleaning
  • Mining
    Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, from an ore body, vein or seam. The term also includes the removal of soil. Materials recovered by mining include base metals, precious metals, iron, uranium, coal, diamonds, limestone, oil shale, rock...

  • Motor vehicle repair
  • Nuclear installations; Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (aka NII)
  • Office work
  • Offshore Oil and Gas Installations
  • Paper and board manufacturing industry
  • Pesticides
  • Police force
    The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

  • Printing
    Printing is a process for reproducing text and image, typically with ink on paper using a printing press. It is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process, and is an essential part of publishing and transaction printing....

  • Public services
    Public services
    Public services is a term usually used to mean services provided by government to its citizens, either directly or by financing private provision of services. The term is associated with a social consensus that certain services should be available to all, regardless of income...

  • The quarry
    A quarry is a type of open-pit mine from which rock or minerals are extracted. Quarries are generally used for extracting building materials, such as dimension stone, construction aggregate, riprap, sand, and gravel. They are often collocated with concrete and asphalt plants due to the requirement...

  • Recycling
    Recycling is processing used materials into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution and water pollution by reducing the need for "conventional" waste disposal, and lower greenhouse...

     and waste management
    Waste management
    Waste management is the collection, transport, processing or disposal,managing and monitoring of waste materials. The term usually relates to materials produced by human activity, and the process is generally undertaken to reduce their effect on health, the environment or aesthetics...

  • Textiles industries

External links

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