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
Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • 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

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing