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Since coming into office the Government have aimed at greater openness and accountability in the public sector and in the way public sector organisations conduct and deliver services to the public. In order to encourage this culture of greater openness and accountability within HSE, the Board approved the attached statement.

The Board wishes all staff to support the statement and to help HSE become a more open and accountable organisation.

Enquiries to: Lyn Platt-Yeo, Senior Management Support Unit, Open Government Unit, 8 South Wing, Rose Court, Tel: 0171 717 6601, VPN 522 6601


Our aim is:

  • to share what we know;

  • to seek proactively to identify the information which people need and strive to provide it

  • to inform and consult on important proposals

  • to be receptive to information and views we receive

  • to have transparent decision-making arrangements and

  • to operate fair and efficient appeals procedures.

We believe all this is vital if we are to be effective in a complex world, to build on the trust of our stakeholders and partners, to develop our accountability as a positive force, and to enhance our reputation as confident and independent regulators.

Why is Openness Important?

HSE has always been held in high regard by those who work in the health and safety system. However, HSE can only retain its credibility if it maintains the trust of the people for whose benefit it regulates - workers and the public - and is seen at the same time as a fair and consistent enforcer of the law by the people that we regulate.

In order to retain and build on the trust placed in HSE, we must be open about what we do and how we do it. This means:

  • demonstrating that we are professionally competent
  • sharing the information we collect on hazards and on research
  • responding to the needs of the injured and in particular the families of those tragically killed in accidents
  • being open not just about what we have done but also how we have done it
  • being ready to admit when we have got things wrong and to explain the action we propose to take to improve.

As a public body, we must also contribute, through Service First (the new Citizen's Charter) and the development and implementation of Freedom of Information legislation, to the Government's wider initiatives on openness.

What does being more open mean?

In simple terms it means:

  • asking how we can release information

rather than

  • thinking how we can withhold information.

The presumption should be that all the information we hold should be released on request unless:

  • the law prevents it ; or
  • significant harm would be caused.

In addition, we should look wherever possible to

  • make information publicly available through the Internet, public registers etc; and

  • improve the collection and storage of information so as to enable easy access and release.

How is greater openness to be achieved ?
We, and people we have contact with, in particular employers, have to be ready to move to a situation where much of the information HSE holds will and should be given out. Existing restrictions on information release (e.g. s28 of HSWA) will be replaced by a very limited number of exceptions to the right of access to official records and information in the Freedom of Information legislation.

In developing our positive culture of openness, the Board recognises that:

  • it will take some time to develop fully
  • dealing with requests for information will take resources away from 'frontline' activities. Additional resources will be provided for this work
  • staff will need training and development in this area and will need the support of their managers in giving sufficient time to do this work
  • as an organisation we need to develop the confidence to deal with the questioning which will inevitably result from a greater level of openness and to be honest when we get things wrong; and
  • we must apply the same principles of openness to our activities within HSE.

The Way Ahead

The Board wish to see HSE become, in its attitudes, operations, policies and processes, a leading example across Government of an open and accountable organisation. With your help and support we are confident that this is within our grasp.

The HSE Board
March 1999


i.e. in line with Section 28 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the exemptions in the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information and the Environmental Information Regulations 1992 (as amended), and the non-disclosure provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998. See GAP 1 and GAP 37 for detailed instructions on these.

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Page last updated on June 9, 2003