HSE Chair Sarah Newton reflects on the past year

HSE Chair Sarah Newton

 

Welcome to the first HSE blog this year. We hope to make this a regular feature on the website. Other colleagues and I intend to share our thoughts and observations on a wide range of topics and subjects related to HSE’s mission.

My overarching opinion of HSE since I became Chair in August last year, is a hugely positive one. My first impressions are of a regulator staffed by passionate, committed and expert individuals who are fully engaged with and behind HSE’s core mission.

Today, as we reflect on the past year, the loss of life and impact in communities across Great Britain, it is safe to say that it has been a year unlike any of us have ever experienced.

As we think about the year ahead, and the anticipated emergence from the dark shadow of the pandemic, now is the time to apply renewed vigour to our work enabling Covid-secure workplaces. Drawing on what we are continuously learning from the data and science. With a focus on controlling risk, from identifying it to mitigating for it.

It’s worth mentioning that from all the conversations I’ve had with our people, it seems we have found the vast majority of businesses and workplaces are willing to follow Government advice, make necessary changes promptly, without the need for enforcement action from us. Where we have needed to, we have taken that action.

HSE, working with Public Heath bodies and Local Authorities has been at the centre of the Government response to Covid in Great Britain. Our people have worked tirelessly and selflessly to ensure workplaces are doing all they can to provide a Covid-secure working environment. HSE takes the Covid pandemic and the welfare of workers incredibly seriously. Of course, we do. That is written into our DNA and, since 1974, that has been our mission.

Over the past year, we’ve repeatedly demonstrated that making workplaces Covid-secure is an organisational priority. Let me highlight just a few of HSE’s actions;

• We’ve shifted resource onto Covid related work from all around the organisation and also benefited from an additional £14m to add in new services to support workers and employers.
• Since the start of the pandemic HSE has completed over 165,700 Covid-19 spot checks and responded to over 210,000 concerns.
• This week we’ve carried out around 2,000 workplace checks a day and the number is rising constantly.
• We’ve supported Public Health bodies on 646 reported outbreaks.
• Spot checks have been targeted in those industries where workers are most likely to be vulnerable to transmission risks.
• HSE is also leading a Covid-19 national core study funded by Government on the transmission of COVID-19 in the environment, which includes in workplaces, transport and other public settings and will look to answer essential policy and operational questions about the coronavirus pandemic.

All of the above, and more, has taken place against a backdrop of HSE continuing to regulate traditional, non-Covid related occupational health and safety in a multitude of industries. As well as setting up the new Building Safety Regulator and dealing with the complex regulatory responsibilities associated with the end of the EU transition period and the intake of new staff that these have entailed. I think that’s a real achievement everyone in HSE can be proud of.