Sell-off fears for health and safety regulator

Ministers want to take advantage of watchdog’s expertise to raise revenue

The Health & Safety Executive is set to bring in bosses from the commercial sector to beef up its board of directors in a move that unions believe could lead to privatisation of the independent regulator.

A review of the HSE’s £145.5m budget earlier this year called on the Work and Pensions department, which oversees the organisation, to look for ways to profit out of parts of its work.

The HSE ensures safety and welfare in the workplace and is prominent in dangerous industries such as construction.

Ideas floated included developing an improved commercial model for the Health and Safety Laboratory in Buxton, Derbyshire, which provides technical support to HSE investigations.  Overseas governments may be willing to pay for the laboratory’s work, such as providing expert witnesses.

Unions fear that these recommendations could mark the “first step to privatisation”.

The Government has denied that it wants to sell off chunks of the HSE, but minister Mike Penning’s  response to the review, published last month, said that the Government intended to “go further” than those recommendations to allow HSE to become “more commercial in outlook and delivery”.

As well as bringing in directors with commercial expertise, this could include partnering with organisations overseas to help the HSE to sell health and  safety advice to other governments.

“The Government is exploring options for the growth of the services provided by the HSE and the Laboratory to the outside world,” explained an insider. “Some of the work in the coming months will include looking at using external partners overseas and employing people [abroad] on different terms and conditions rather than using a civil servant.”

Unison’s head of health and safety, Tracey Harding, said that such moves could result in “taking expertise from the HSE in order to make money”.

Mr Penning said in the review response that “there is international interest in learning from and adopting Britain’s health and safety regulatory system” and officials were looking at ways  to allow the HSE to meet “a much larger proportion of its costs from commercial activities”.

The HSE has been asked to report back in the autumn over the feasibility of charging businesses that want additional visits from inspectors to ensure that their safety practices are top notch.

The organisation could also charge for an advice service for firms in the chemicals industry seeking to navigate the complicated planning system.

A DWP spokesman said: “By sharing HSE’s expertise and knowledge at home and around the globe, we are exploring taking advantage of commercial opportunities to achieve a better deal for taxpayers.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
Fans take a selfie with Ed Miliband in Kempston, near Bedford, on Tuesday
election 2015
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Project Manager / Business Analyst

£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application) - Agile

£215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power