Committee, 2004 -
and Directors Duties
2004, the Select committee on Work and Pensions published
its report on the Health and Safety Executive and
Commssion (to read more about the evidence that was
given to this, click
its report, the Select Committee stated:
The HSE recognises that, in organisations that
are good at managing health and safety, it is
a board room issue and a board member takes direct
responsibility for co-ordination of that effort.
Action Point 11 of Revitalising Health and Safety
was that HSC would advise Ministers on how the
law needed to be changed to make these responsibilities
statutory, so that directors are clear about what
is expected of them in their management of health
and safety. It was the intention to legislate
on these matters when Parliamentary time allows,
as the weight of evidence suggests that the imposition
of legally binding duties on directors would increase
the likelihood of directors taking ownership of
health and safety problems , positively impact
on the current levels of preventable work-place
death and injury and create more of a level playing
field between those directors who take their health
and safety responsibilities seriously and those
who do not.
The CBI supported the idea that there should be
a director for health and safety who is a
champion, a reporting person, a motivator and
a facilitator for good health and safety performance
but was concerned that it would move quickly to
that same person being pinpointed to take
a claim. Because of this, it was important
to be careful about the wording.
The Government appears to have changed its mind
since Revitalising, however, and has no current
plans to legislate. The Minister, told us that
HSE had published guidance on the issue in July
2001 . The evidence since then suggested that
increasingly, companies were directing
health and safety at board level and that better
guidance to companies is needed rather than
legislation or further regulation. A survey
published in 2003, showed that the number of
companies in which health and safety was being
directed at board level had increased from 58
to 66 per cent. The Minister concluded that
this progress diminished the need to regulate.
Alternatively, it is worth noting that the perceived
threat of legislation in this area might have
led some employers to put such arrangements
in place in order to pre-empt the need for legislation
The Centre for Corporate Accountability argued
that it is not clear that directors are giving
leadership and direction on the issue. It says
that HSC has acknowledged that in some cases board
level involvement is fairly superficial.
Furthermore, it argues that the survey referred
to by the Minister does not paint a straightforward
picture of progress. While an increasing number
of organisations were directing health and safety
at board level, the study also showed that board
level involvement on some issues actually decreased.
The Committee recommends that the Government
reconsiders its decision not to legislate on directors
duties and brings forward proposals for prelegislative
scrutiny in the next session of Parliament.
Government, responded in its report by stating:
Government believes that there is already an appropriate
balance of legislative and voluntary responsibilities
on directors for occupational health and safety,
and has no immediate plans to legislate as recommended.
It, along with HSC, will continue to encourage and
persuade directors in organisations across all sectors
to take their responsibilities seriously and to
provide leadership on occupational health and safety.
While the evidence is clear that growing numbers
of board directors, in the private, public and voluntary
sectors, are taking responsibility and providing
leadership, there is still some way to go to achieve
the goal of all boards exercising corporate responsibility.
There is an estimated one in six organisations in
which boards do not provide direction or take responsibility,
and have no plans to do so.
A key theme in HSCs workplace strategy is
helping people to understand and benefit from sensible
health and safety policies and practices. HSC has
been asked to build on and invigorate the current
voluntary measures in place.
This includes publicising examples of best practice,
the benefits of board- level corporate responsibility
and the persuasive evidence of the benefits, economic
and social, that director leadership brings.
The Government has asked HSC to undertake
further evaluation to assess the effectiveness and
progress of the current measures in place, legislative
and voluntary, and to report its findings and recommendations
by December 2005.
it was not for the Select Committee, the issue of
changing the law to impose safety duties on Directors
would in effect have died.