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HSE TO MAKE AT LEAST 35% SAVINGS OVER 4 YEARS

Regulator to recover more costs whilst reducing burden on ‘low risk’ firms

HSE CEO Geofrey Podger has told staff at the regulator that as a consequences of the Government Spending Review HSE is required to make savings of at least 35% over the next four years.

A third of the HSE £341m budget is recovered from industry and work in such areas is not therefore directly affected by the Spending Review. 

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which sponsors HSE, has made it clear that “we will share more of the cost with those businesses who create risks, while reducing burdens on low risk businesses”.

HSE will be expected to make very significant internal economies.

Mr Podger told staff: 

“I very much recognise the concerns that colleagues will have over what is bound to be a significant reduction in the size of the organisation but we will manage this process much better if we proceed in a measured way.

We cannot yet say how manageable the consequential manpower reductions will be but would obviously prefer to avoid compulsory redundancy if possible.

The DWP has stated:

“The Government remains committed to a health and safety regime that is fair, balanced and proportionate. Sensible health and safety at work helps to maintain a healthy and productive workforce and contributes to economic prosperity.

In the current economic climate, it is appropriate that HSE should be asked to reduce its costs in the same way as the rest of the public sector. In seeking to achieve savings of at least 35% over the SR10 period, we will share more of the cost with those businesses who create risks, while reducing burdens on low-risk businesses.

We will consider the recommendations of Lord Young’s review and design a streamlined health and safety system that is fit for the 21st century while remaining true to the core principles set out by Lord Robens in 1972.”

Comment

The specific implications for the construction sector will emerge in the coming months. Inspector numbers will remain static or fall and HSE will be under pressure to sustain the ‘front line’ particularly in the construction sector. Research and back office functions may have to provide the brunt of the savings.

A significant drop in Construction Inspector numbers will occur in 2011 as the 2 year short term contract Construction Inspectors recruited in 2009 leave HSE. This group has reportedly made a significant impact on the level of safety on smaller building projects.

The possible implications for larger contractors / projects are interesting. Construction News quotes industry sources as suggesting greater autonomy for larger contractors with HSE Construction Inspectors focusing interventions on smaller sites, smaller contractors and ‘higher risk’ projects.

It is unclear whether this autonomy will be in the form of formal exclusion from inspection or merely an informal shift in HSE construction Inspector focus.

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