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Last edited 07 Jul 2021
Health and Safety Executive HSE
The Factories Act 1833 created the first statutory requirements for health and safety in the UK, introducing factory inspectors, primarily to prevent injury and overworking in child textile workers. This was followed by the creation of the Mines Inspectorate in 1843, the Quarry Inspectorate in 1895 and then controls on agriculture the nuclear industry and so on.
This culminated in the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act and the creation of the The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) in 1974. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was formed on 1 January 1975 to carry out the requirements of the Health and Safety Commission.
HSE is the national independent regulator for work-related health, safety and illness, working in the public interest to reduce work-related death and serious injury in the workplace. It is a non-departmental public body (NDPB) reporting to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). It is governed by a Board and the Senior Management Team.
Buildings can present a great number of possible risks both in construction and operation. There are many duties placed on those commissioning, designing, constructing and operating buildings to control those risks. The legislation affecting health and safety in design and construction falls under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act through regulations such as the Control of Asbestos Regulations, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) and in particular the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, first introduced in 1994. (See Health and Safety and CDM for more information).
- Mobile plant.
- Falling material and collapses.
- Electrical accidents.
- Manual handling.
- Noise and vibration.
- Operational units with more than a hundred inspectors across the country.
- A Construction Sector dealing with key stakeholders.
- A Policy Unit which develops new construction legislation and deals with wider policy initiatives.
Inspectors have the power to:
- Enter premises.
- Issue notices requiring that improvements are made.
- To stop processes where there is a risk of serious injury.
- Prosecute a business or an individual for breaking health and safety law.
- Offer guidance, education and support.
- last longer than 30 days; or
- involve more than 500 person days of construction work.
NB in 2017, the Unite union reported that the number of HSE inspectors had dropped by 25% since 2010, falling from 1,311 frontline inspectors to just 980. Unite acting general secretary Gail Cartmail said; “Rogue bosses who are prepared to break safety laws, are only kept in check by the fear of being caught and punished. Fewer inspectors mean more bosses willing to risk workers’ lives to boost profits." Ref http://www.unitetheunion.org/news/unite-reveal-shock-25-per-cent-cut-in-health-and-safety-inspectors/
HSE is also a statutory consultee to local planning authorities on planning applications for Hazardous Substances Consent (HSC) and developments near major hazard installations and pipelines. Its role as statutory consultee is to ensure planning decisions are informed by the public safety risks arising from applications.
On 28 July 2014, HSE’s Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) launched an enhanced pre-application service intended to make it easier and faster for developers and planning authorities to access land use planning information and advice. The Land Use Planning Pre-application Advice service will be fully rolled-out in March 2015. See HSE Land Use Planning Pre-application Advice for more information.
The Construction Industry Advisory Committee (CONIAC) advises HSE on the protection of people at work and others from hazards to health and safety within the building, civil engineering and engineering construction industries. Its membership comes from the HSE, employers, employees and key industry stakeholders, including small and medium-sized enterprises. It is chaired by the Chief Inspector of Construction.
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