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Press Release

NAO to Hold inquiry into the work of the HSE

The National Audit Office (NAO) is undertaking an inquiry into the role of the Health and Safety Executive in improving health and safety in the Construction Industry.

This is the first inquiry by the NAO into the HSE for 9 years. To see details of NAOs previous reports, click here

David Bergman, Director of the Centre for Corporate Accountability said:

"It is welcome that the NAO is looking into the effectiveness of the HSE. However, it should be noted that the NAO can only inquire into whether the HSE is using its existing resources efficiently, and not whether further resources are required’

The CCA was approached by the NAO in 1999 concerning a possible inquiry into the HSE. To download the letter sent to the NAO from the CCA at that time, Click Here (word)

The current inquiry is part of the NAO’s "programme of value for money studies" into specific government activities and programmes

The NAO has already carried out preliminary investigations to identity the main issues and methodology for the study and is currently carrying out the study’s fieldwork. As part of this, the NAO has written to stakeholders, including the Centre for Corporate Accountability. The following is an extract from the letter

"The HSE’s primary objective is to ensure that people’s health and safety from work activities are properly controlled. This is particularly important in the construction industry which, in 2001-02, contributed 79 of the 249 (32 per cent) of the fatal injuries to workers. The National Audit Office is carrying out an investigation to ascertain whether the HSE has effective strategies in place to secure improvements in the health and safety record of the construction industry, and what effect these are having. Specifically, we are examining three issues.

Are the HSE’s strategies and programmes appropriate and based on sound evidence?
Are the HSE’s strategies and programmes making an impact on the control and management of health and safety risks?
Are the barriers to improvements in the construction industry’s health and safety record being tackled effectively?"

The CCA is holding a seminar to bring together trade unions, safety organisations, other stakeholders and bereaved families to discuss these issues.

The NAO says that they will ‘review HSE’s performance by:

data analysis and document review at HSE;
interviews and work shadowing of HSE staff
consulting stakeholders to develop case studies on the impact of HSE’s strategies; and
identifying best practice in evaluation techniques and comparing HSE’s approach with these

We will focus on what HSE is doing to: reach key groups in the construction industry – such as the government as client and CDM duty holders – and the techniques used to reach these audiences; and its work to address specific problems such a falls from heights."

The NAO has posed the following questions for stakeholders to consider:

Does the HSE have a good understanding of the construction industry, its health and safety record, and the factors which influence it?
Is the HSE’s analysis and research relevant?
Has the HSE established the right priorities to bring about improvements to the sector’s health and safety record?
Are the HSE’s strategies and programmes targeted correctly?
Do the HSE’s targets and programmes reflect the diverse nature of the construction industry?
Do the HSE’s targets and programmes expand concentrate sufficiently on the different stages of the construction process?
In which areas is the HSE performing well and in which areas does it need to perform better?
What has changed as a result of the application of the HSE’s strategies and programmes?
Have the HSE’s strategies and programmes led to any unintended outcomes?
What is your opinion on the HSE’s approach to improving occupational health in the construction industry?
What are the main barriers to improvement in the construction industry’s health and safety record?
What steps is your organisation taking to improve health and safety in the construction industry?
In what way does your organisation work with the HSE to improve health and safety in the construction industry?
Are there any lessons that could be learnt from the regulation of health and safety in the construction industry in other countries?

Click Here to find out what happens once the report is published?

For Further Information contact the CCA on 020 7490 4494

The NAO can be contacted on 020 7798 7000. To see its website, click here

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Notes to Editors

  1. The Centre for Corporate Accountability is an independent nonprofit advice, research and lobbying group at the forefront of seeking to ensure that health and safety law is properly enforced and that deaths and injuries resulting from corporate activities are subject to adequate criminal investigations, and, where appropriate, prosecution and effective sanctions. It's charitable activities are funded by Joseph Rowntrees Charitable Trust.

    The Centre runs a Work Related Death Advice Service

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Previous NAO Reports

There are two NAO reports

To download the 1994 Report, Click Here (PDF)

To download the 1985 Report, Click Here (PDF)

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What happens when the report is published?

The published NAO report is used as the basis for a hearing of the Committee of Public Accounts, a senior committee of the House of Commons traditionally chaired by an opposition Member - currently Edward Leigh. 
The audited body's Accounting Officer appears as the main witness, and the Committee members' questions are directed towards him or her. The Accounting Officer may be supported by staff from the department/agency with knowledge of the matters under discussion. In the case of the HSE, the Accounting Officer is the Director General, Timothy Walker
The Treasury Officer of Accounts also appears as a witness, as does the head of the National Audit Office, the Comptroller and Auditor General (it is rare for either to be asked a question by Members). 
Based on the hearing the Committee produces its own report, which contains recommendations for action by the body under scrutiny. 
The Treasury co-ordinates the audited body's response to the recommendations - this is formally known as the Treasury Minute. We will follow up the response to ensure that recommendations have been implemented


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Page last updated on November 22, 2003