HSC guidance on Directors' responsibilities for health and safety

United Kingdom
HSC guidance on Directors' responsibilities for health and safety

This guidance document has recently been published by the HSE, in a form somewhat amended after consultation on an earlier draft (see LawNow Archive, 18 January 2001).

Significant changes made to the earlier draft

  • the term 'code' has been replaced with the term 'guidance', which now clarifies the evidential status of the document.
  • the guidance stresses that the role of the board of directors is to provide strategic oversight and direction.
  • it is recommended that directors, in carrying out their responsibilities, should set out the expectations of senior managers with health and safety responsibilities and the arrangements for keeping the board informed and advised of all relevant matters concerning performance.
  • it is recommended that, in accordance with the 'Turnbull Report', directors should, at least annually, review systems of control including risk management, financial, operational and compliance controls that are the key to the fulfilment of the company's business objectives.

The Key Action Points in the Guidance

Action Point 1

"The board needs to accept formally the publicly its collective role in providing health and safety leadership in its organisation".

Action Point 2

"Each member of the board needs to accept their individual role in providing health and safety leadership for their organisation."

Action Point 3

"The board needs to ensure that all board decisions reflect its health and safety intentions, as articulated in the health and safety policy statement".

Action Point 4

"The board needs to recognise its role in engaging the active participation of workers in improving health ad safety".

Action Point 5

"The board needs to ensure that it is kept informed of, and alert to, relevant health and safety risk management issues. The Health and Safety Commission recommends that board appoints one of their number to be the 'health and safety director'".

Specific additions and amendments to directors' responsibilities

  • The commentary on Action point 3 has been amended since the earlier draft to introduce additional considerations for directors in the following areas:
    (a) new materials, are they toxic, do they pose new risks and how will any new risks be controlled?
    (b) new work practices, what are the new risks and are new managers and supervisors competent to induct workers in the new practices?
    (c) new people, do they need health and safety training and are they sufficiently competent to do the job safely?
    (d) contracting out, the importance of directors recognising their continuing responsibility for safety when work is contracted out.
  • Guidance on Action point 4 now stresses that all workers have a duty, while at work, to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that of other people who may be affected by their acts or omissions.
  • The commentary on Action point 5 has been expanded with the following explanations:
    (a) the purpose of the 'health and safety director' is to have a member of the board who can ensure that health and safety risk management issues are properly addressed, both by the board and more widely in the organisation
    (b) the Chairman and/or Chief Executive have a critical role to play in ensuring risks are properly managed and that the 'health and safety director' has the necessary competence, resources and support of the board members to carry out their functions.
    (c) the role of the 'health and safety director' should not detract either from the responsibilities of other directors for specific areas of health and safety risk management or from the health and safety responsibilities of the board as a whole.

Copies of the guidance are available at www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg343.pdf

For further information contact Mark Tyler, mlt@cms-cmck.com (+44 (0)20 7367 2568) or Faye Sankey, fsk@cms-cmck.com (+44 (0)20 7367 2531).