Who are the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)?

The Health and Safety Executive's History

The HSE's history spans back to 1833 when HM Factory inspectorate was formed. Following suit a decade later, the Mine Inspectorate was formed. Half a century later the first female factory inspectors were appointed and to finish off the 1800s, in 1895 the Quarry Inspectorate was formed.

Jumping ahead to 1974, a landmark year for health and safety as a whole, saw the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The HSE's first Director General described the legislation as a 'bold and far-reaching piece of legislation'. The Act has been a benchmark for safety every since, which established the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) which received Royal Assent in 1974. Some of the key hazards the HSC were responsible for tackling were asbestos, construction, dusts, genetic manipulation, ionising radiation, lead, noise and vinyl chloride.

Health & Safety Executive LogoIn 1975 the Health and Safety Executive was officially formed, under the leadership of John Locke who served as the HSE's first Director General from January 1975 - December 1983. The HSE's role was to enforce health and safety legislation in all workplaces (except those under the remit of local authorities). Certain organisations were taken over by the HSE at this time, including the Factor Inspectorate, Explosives Inspectorate, Employment Medical Advisory Service, Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, Safety and Health Division from the Department of Energy, the Mines Inspectorate, the Safety in Mines Research Establishment, the British Approvals Service for Electrical Equipment in Flammable Atmospheres and the Alkali and Clean Air Inspectorate.  

In 2008 the Health and Safety Commission and the Health and Safety Executive fully merged, creating the Health and Safety Executive which we know today. You can read the full history of the HSE here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/timeline/index.htm


The Health and Safety Executive's Strategy

 The HSE's strategy is titled Help Great Britain work well Strategy. The HSE aims to manage risks in a 'proportionate and effective way' such as supporting innovation and increasing productivity. The strategy is split into six key areas:
HSE Acting Together logo
  • Acting together - The purpose of the first strategic plan is to encourage broader ownership of issues and collective ownership that best reflects local circumstances. The HSE is also pushing for collaboration to reach those who have been less engaged in the past.
  • Tackling ill health - All areas of society and industry face issues with work-related ill health, this ranges from long-latency diseases such as stress and musculoskeletal disorders. The HSE aims to promote greater awareness of the harm, costs and preventability of work-related ill health. The HSE believe the key here is within earlier prevention which costs less than attempting to intervene when a person is suffering from ill health.
  • Managing risk well - Sensible and proportionate risk management is key to an organisation's success. This is the third piece in the HSE's strategy to help Great Britain work well. The HSE believe this will support growth, enable innovation and protect an organisation's most vital asset - its people, and we couldn't agree more.
  • Supporting small employers - The HSE understands that reaching micro and small businesses can be very difficult, especially for an organisation as large as the HSE, however they are making it a priority within their strategy to help, through the likes of free help and support.
  • Keeping pace with change - Another key part of the HSE's strategy is to see upcoming changes, watch out for technological advances and emerging industries in order to remain a world leader in risk management.
  • Sharing our success - The HSE has taken steps to create in their own words a world class system which we can all benefit from as a source of inspiration and achievement. This part of the strategy is key to improving standards within Great Britain but also around the globe. In sharing the knowledge with people around the world we can keep countless lives safe.

Read the full strategy here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/strategy/index.htm


Structure and responsibilities

On a local level, the Local Authorities are responsible for the enforcement of health and safety legislations within all shops, offices and other service sectors. However there are certain agencies and institutes which fall directly under the remit of the Health and Safety Executive:

  • Health and Safety Executive, Science Division. This agency carries out scientific research and investigations for the HSE, other government agencies and the private sector.
  • HM Inspectorate of Mines - responsible for the correct implementation and the inspection of safe working procedures within all of the United Kingdom's mines.
  • Occupational Safety & Health Consultants Register - a central register for safety consultants within the United Kingdom.


Hazardous Installations Directorate (HID)

Regulation of major hazard industries whose products are essential to our everyday life, but where failures in safe management and risk control can lead to catastrophic harm to workers and the public.

There are two major divisions within the Hazardous Installations Directorate - The Energy Division responsible for offshore oil and gas, gas supply industry, pipelines and mining. The second division being CEMHD which is responsible for the chemicals industry, explosives, biosafety and microbiological containment.  


In our future posts we're going to look at the powers of a HSE inspector and what constitutes a 'competent person'


Speak Soon,