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LINK BETWEEN HSE ACTION AND SAFETY OUTCOMES UNPROVEN

Researchers pour cold water on ever ‘proving’ that H&S regulation works

HSE commissioned research to investigate the feasibility of improving HSE evidence of how its range of ongoing activities contribute to reducing death, injury and cases of ill health caused by work. The objectives of HSE were: 

  • to established whether it is feasible, using existing data sources, to demonstrate links between current HSE activities and changes in health and safety outcomes; and
  • if not currently feasible why this is the case so as to enable discussions with partner organisations on the assessment of HSE impact.

The focus of the study was on the activities of HSE as a whole and the link with final H&S outcomes (e.g. the frequency and scale of work-related fatalities, injuries and ill-health).

Not feasible to demonstrate links between HSE activities changes in outcomes

It was accepted by HSE that the assessment of the holistic impact of its activities on outcomes might involve building an aggregate picture from the ‘bottom-up’.  

The interest was primarily in quantitative assessments of the effect of HSE activities on these outcomes although it acknowledged that qualitative analysis might have a role to play. The researchers concluded:

“It is not feasible, given current evidence and data sources, to demonstrate links between HSE activities as a whole and changes in H&S final outcomes. This is because of the complexity of model specification, empirical and methodological problems and the available data sources not being fit for those purposes.

This conclusion is not unique to HSE – regulatory authorities and researchers in other countries experience the same problems. It is also not because HSE has neglected to carry out evaluations of its specific initiatives and activities – but rather that they have not been carried out using consistent methods, metrics and reporting arrangements.

Moreover, the evidence from the literature suggests very strongly that there is no guarantee, given the modelling and data problems, that HSE could – in one discrete exercise -estimate the link between its activities as a whole and H&S final outcomes – especially health outcomes.

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