Provision of public assurance that major hazards are properly controlled - HSE’s role
This report presents the findings from a study on public perceptions of the regulatory systems required to manage health and safety in major hazard sectors. The work is based on 12 reconvened focus groups in six locations around the UK which took place between December 2004 and February 2005. The second sessions involved HSE representatives from four major hazard sectors. Using a multi-criteria analysis approach, participants scored the relative importance of the elements of a regulatory system, which had been distilled from the first set of discussions, for each of four major hazard sectors. There is one fundamental underlying principle for a major hazards health and safety regime in the UK, namely that the operators should act responsibly. The inspection/oversight regime should therefore be designed to ensure that operators are acting responsibly. The three key elements of a regulatory regime were:
- external checks of health and safety systems;
- expert inspectors; and
- identified health and safety staff within the operators.
At a secondary level, the regime must include: external checks on buildings, that drills are taking place and that training is being provided; external monitoring of emissions; independent inspectors; and prior permission to operate from HSE. In summary, we could deduce the following system would meet with general approval:
- inspection of systems and procedures by independent and technically expert people;
- physical inspections by independent and technically expert people;
- a range of inspection options, including unannounced spot checks, planned inspections of particular features and general inspections of culture and practice;
- frequent inspections, with regularity reflecting both potential hazards, perceived risk of the operator, as well as of the sector; and
- appropriate sanctions for operators failing to comply with set standards.
The overall conclusion by participants was that HSE is performing a crucial role and doing it well. Participants felt confident in the existing approaches that were explained to them. They were generally keen to stress that these systems should remain in place as they had been successful in providing safety to date.
This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the author(s) alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy