On 1 April 2008 the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) merged to form a single national regulatory body responsible for promoting the cause of better health and safety at work. The merged body will be called the Health and Safety Executive and is intended to provide greater clarity and transparency while maintaining its public accountability.
Welcoming the merger, Health and Safety Minister Lord McKenzie said: "The Health and Safety Commission and Health and Safety Executive have done an excellent job over the last 30 years in bringing about significant improvements to health and safety at work.
"However, to face the challenges and demands of the changing world of work, now is the right time to merge the organisations into one which can provide a platform for further improvements to health and safety at work across Great Britain.”
Judith Hackitt, Chair of the new Health and Safety Executive, added: "The new Health and Safety Executive will strengthen the importance of workplace health and safety in Great Britain. With a single regulatory body we will be able to strengthen the links between strategy and delivery in order to provide the accountability expected of a public body in today’s workplace climate. The merger will not fundamentally change the day-to-day operations but will set the tone for closer working throughout the organisation.
"HSE will build on the independence, good relationships with stakeholders and in particular our relationship with local authorities to develop a revised strategy for health and safety in Great Britain.”
The HSE will retain its independence, reflecting the interests of employers, employees and local authorities, and is committed to maintaining its service delivery. In terms of organisation, the Board of the new Executive will assume responsibility for running all aspects of the HSE, including setting the overall strategic direction, financial and performance management and prioritisation of resources. The HSE will be revisiting its strategy to develop a long-term view for the next five years, which will be published towards the end of 2008.
According to the Department for Work & Pensions, which is responsible for workplace health and safety, the merger means that there is now a single national regulatory body responsible for promoting the cause of better health and safety at work. All the fundamental contents of the Health & Safety at Work Act remain in place, and none of the statutory functions of the previous HSC and HSE will be removed. Furthermore, there is no change in health and safety requirements, how they are enforced or how stakeholders relate to the health and safety regulator. No health and safety protections will be removed.
Judith Hackitt, who chaired the old HSC, is now Chair of the Board of the new HSE. Existing Commissioners have been appointed as non-executive directors of the new Executive for the remainder of their term of office and been given the relevant responsibilities of the new roles. Members of the Board of the new HSE will be appointed by the Secretary of State and there will be a maximum of eleven members plus the Chair.
The decision to merge the HSC and HSE was reached after extensive consultation with stakeholders - in which 80 per cent of respondents were in favour of the merger - and through the process determined by the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006.
More information about the HSE is available at www.hse.gov.uk , though at the time of writing the 'About us' section has yet to be updated to reflect the merger.