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The HSE: its role and responsibilities
The HSE is the body responsible for overseeing the protection of people from injury or illness caused by work. It is primarily a regulator. The responsibility for protecting workers and the public lies mainly with the employer, but the HSE recommends regulations to government, produces guidance, inspects workplaces, investigates incidents and prosecutes when necessary. It is often seen as the ‘watchdog’ of health and safety.
The HSE was created by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and it is sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions. It has a chief executive, and also a board, which includes a part-time chair and between nine and twelve board members appointed by the government. Of those, at least six should come from employee or employer bodies, three from each.
In the past, the HSE has generally been highly respected by government, unions and employers, all of whom have been supportive of the organisation and its work. It is also highly regarded internationally as one of the premier health and safety organisations in the world. Certainly its staff are considered first class, including those in the Health and Safety Laboratories, which it runs.
However, 40 years since its creation, despite all the good work that has been done, Britain still has a huge health and safety problem.