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HSE publishes its own guidance on investigations

At the end of January 2007, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) updated its general guidance on the selection, for investigation, of incidents that may have arisen as a result of breaches of section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The purposes of HSWA include protecting people other than those at work from risks to their health and safety arising out of or in connection with the activities of persons at work (s.1(1)(b) HSWA). Risks include those attributable to 'the manner of conducting an undertaking' (s.1(3) HSWA). The scope of the general duties set out in section 3 HSWA (section 3) is very broad and the guidance assists HSE staff in the exercise of discretion when selecting incidents for investigation where a breach of section 3 is suspected.

Both the instructions and the HSC policy on section 3 enforcement complement the HSC's Enforcement Policy Statement (EPS). The EPS has been developed in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, making it clear that the HSC expects enforcing authorities to exercise discretion/judgement in deciding when to investigate or what enforcement action may be appropriate; and that such judgements will be in accordance with those principles set out in the Cabinet Office's Enforcement Concordat on good enforcement practice.

The HSE's arrangements for enforcing section 3 need to take account of health and safety priorities - most recently set out in the HSC's 'Strategy for workplace health and safety in Great Britain to 2010 and beyond' - while continuing to meet the duty under section18 of the HSWA to make adequate arrangements for enforcing the relevant statutory provisions.

Included in the guidance are sections covering the scope and application, liaison, agreements, further advice, priorities for enforcement, and further information. The full text of the guidance on the enforcement of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 - Section 3 is available via the HSE website.

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