Report by the CCA says HSE arguments for voluntary director guidance without changing H&S law are misleading

A new report by the Centre for Corporate Accountability sets out how many of the arguments used by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to support the introduction of voluntary guidance for directors on health and safety (H&S) responsibilities, without first changing the law to impose safety obligations upon them, are misleading.

The new report was published on the same day that the Health and Safety Commission and the Institute of Directors published new voluntary H&S guidance for directors.

David Bergman, director of the Centre for Corporate Accountability said: “The HSE has over the years been against changing the law on directors duties and actively supported voluntary guidance. This report shows that many of HSE's arguments in support of voluntary guidance and against legal change have been misleading, and that in fact its own commissioned research supports the argument for legal change. The report also shows that potential health and safety benefits in changing the law are so significant that a failure to do so borders on recklessness."

The report was written for the building workers's union, UCATT.

The main findings of the report include:

The CCA says voluntary guidance does not work because less than half of organisations have a health and safety director at board level.

The CCA argues that that the average reduction in levels of injury as a result of director action is 25%. The level of health and safety benefits from director action is therefore potentially very high it says.

The CCA added that HSE's own commissioned research shows that law and its enforcement is the principle motivator of director action. It quoted evidence by the HSE that stated: “61% of duty holders agree or strongly agree that individuals believing they could possibly be imprisoned is essential or important for enforcement to have a deterrent effect.”