HSENI Board meeting minutes - 1 June 2021

Mintues of the 116 meeting of the board of the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland held on Tuesday 1 June 2021 at 14:00pm via videoconference.


Board Members:                        

  • Mr D Martin – Chair                
  • Mr H Sinclair    
  • Mr T Wright
  • Mr S McDowell
  • Mr A Cooke                         
  • Mrs S Rooney                 
  • Mr G Strong                    
  • Mrs C Irwin                                   
  • Dr P Hart   

HSENI Officials:

  • Mr R Kidd – Chief Executive
  • Dr B Monson – Deputy Chief Executive
  • Mrs N Monson – Deputy Chief Executive
  • Ms L Nelson – Minutes

The Chair welcomed everyone to the 116 meeting of the HSENI Board extending a warm welcome to the six new Board members.

Mrs Rooney left the meeting at 15:50pm.

1. Apologies

  • Louis Burns
  • Kevin Neeson
  • Carol Mounce

2. Corporate Health, Safety and Welfare

The Chief Executive reported that there were no significant issues to report. A re-assessment of Ladas Drive had taken place with Trade Union Side (TUS) and SMT on 20 May 2021 with a view to re-occupation. However he stated that the advice from the Public Health Agency (PHA) Guidelines was still work at home if possible.

3. Declaration of Conflict of Interest(s)

None to report.

4. Minutes from previous meeting

The minutes of the Board meeting held on 28 January 2021 were circulated to Board members prior to the meeting. The minutes were approved and adopted.

5. Matters Arising

The Chief Executive reported that all action points had been completed.

6. Audit and Risk Management Committee Report

The ARMC met on 22 April 2021.

The ARMC Chair thanked Mrs Singleton, the previous ARMC Chair, for ensuring all was in order before her departure.

The following areas were highlighted by the ARMC Chair as having been discussed at the latest ARMC meeting:

  • the risk register, focusing on financial, information risks and emerging risks
  • all Internal Audit audits carried out received a ‘Satisfactory’ assurance rating
  • The implementation of outstanding audit recommendations was reviewed.  There has been slippage with GDPR audit recommendations due to EU Exit work and staff absences. The Chief Executive assured the Board that the recommendations do not impact on HSENI’s ability to respond to GDPR queries
  • ARMC Self-Assessment Checklist
  • ARMC Annual Report to Board, to be presented at the 24 June 2021 meeting

Mrs Irwin asked for clarification on the ARMC Report to the Board. The ARMC Chair explained that the ARMC report consisted of draft ARMC minutes and the risk register.

Mr Strong asked in relation to Emerging Risk ER 1 if the baseline budget figure included inflation. The Chief Executive explained it does not but HSENI could make in-year monitoring bids to cover any shortfalls. The Chair stated that HSENI has no control over this, however the organisation has a good relationship with the Department and always receives good support from it.

Dr Hart enquired if the draft ARMC minutes require approval by the Board.  The ARMC Chair explained that the ARMC minutes are issued to ARMC members by email after the meeting and are not ratified until the next ARMC meeting. The draft ARMC minutes are issued to the Board for information purposes only.

The Chair thanked Mr Wright for his report.

7. Chief Executive’s Report

The following items were highlighted by the Chief Executive:

Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19)

The building was closed on 23 March 2020, access to Ladas Drive is under continual review. The Chief Executive, Deputy Chief Executive and Trade Union Representatives carried out a health and safety audit of the building on 20 May 2021. No significant issues were raised and it was agreed to keep the situation under review as things progress towards potentially working to a partial reoccupation of the building. Additional measures have been introduced including the wearing of face coverings in transit areas such as corridors and stairwells, as well as sanitising on entering and leaving the building, door handles and surfaces. The Chief Executive commended Mrs Rainey for her excellent work in keeping the building COVID safe.

Operations / Assembly business

There were eight assembly questions and 24 constituency correspondence cases during the period. 

HSENI appeared before the Economy Committee to update them on our operational challenges twice in the last year. Both appearances proved to be very positive, giving HSENI the opportunity to explain what HSENI and Local Councils are responsible for enforcing.

Fatal accidents / injury rates / prosecutions

There has been 11 work related fatalities in 2020/21 compared to 12 fatalities in the same period in 2019/20. The sectors involved are Agriculture (3), Construction (2), Manufacturing (2), Health and Social Work (1), Wholesale and Retail Trade; Repair of Motor Vehicles and Motorcycles (1), Mining and Quarrying (1) and Electricity, Gas, Steam and Air Conditioning (1).

The Chief Executive attended routine meetings throughout the period, mainly DfE Senior Management Team meetings, Pandemic Incident Management Team (PIMT) meetings and the Northern Ireland Emergency Planning Group NIEPG (Covid Regional Co-ordination) meetings.

Mr Strong asked if HSENI received the fines paid as a result of prosecutions. The Chief Executive and Mrs Monson explained that there is an agreed arrangement with the Department to pay the Counsel fees and the Department would keep any money received from fines. HSENI is content with this arrangement as it is hard to budget for the number of court cases per annum as well as the uncertainty surrounding the length of each case and associated costs.

Mrs Irwin enquired if the data on statistics in Annex 2 of the Chief Executive’s report is issued every quarter. Dr Monson explained that the reports evolved over the course of the year and are issued quarterly to the Board.

Dr Hart asked if further information on fatalities as detailed in Annex 1 of the Chief Executive’s report would be provided to Board members. Mrs Monson explained the process of investigation of fatalities and stated that the Annual Report would provide further details.

Mr McDowell asked if there was a plan to return to carrying out farm inspections. Dr Monson stated that as there has been a decrease in COVID-19 queries and clusters being reported, farm inspections had resumed. He also stated that HSENI has continued to raise the profile of issues in farm safety, particular child safety on the farms, throughout the pandemic.

Mr Strong commented on the large percentage increase in complaints referred to in Annex 2 of the Chief Executive’s report, stating that no detail was provided. The Chief Executive explained that there was a huge increase in complaints received by HSENI at the start of the pandemic. Mr Strong asked if we should explain this increase to the public. The Chief Executive said that the reason for the increase would be published in the annual report.

The Chair asked if the Cube reporting system could separate complaints to give more information. Dr Monson said this was not possible. The board would be provided with verbal answers to questions and the public would be updated via the annual report.

Mr Cooke thanked the Chief Executive for information on fatalities and RIDDORS in his report. He then asked how HSENI shares information on fatalities and RIDDORS on falls from height, vehicles, animals etc. Dr Monson said that HSENI has extensive links with sector bodies. Trends in accidents and fatalities are discussed with these bodies and also published under ‘Sectoral Analysis’ in the annual report. For ongoing specific risks, HSENI would issue a safety alert as well as checking for safety alerts issued by HSE GB and HSA. Dr Monson also said that the teams within HSENI look for trends in accidents or fatalities and would follow specific initiatives to highlight these eg. social media videos to raise awareness of the issue as well as survivor stories.

Mrs Irwin thanked the Chief Executive and commended him and HSENI’s staff on the amount of activities taking place. The Chair concurred with this comment.

8. HR Report

The Board was updated in relation to the HR Report and the following items highlighted:

Sickness Absence:

Due to NISRA’s ongoing work on NICSHR statistics, no data is available.  The Chief Executive assured the Board that SMT has no concerns in relation to sickness absence within HSENI.


The Chief Executive updated the Board on the vacancy management issue with NICSHR to fill vacancies. He informed the Board that HSENI has no issues with staff retention, and that staff engagement from the NICS survey was very good. Vacancies arise due to retirements, promotion competitions and moves to the private sector.

The Chief Executive reported that interviews had been carried out last week to fill  a Principal Officer / PPTO (Grade 7): EU Chemicals (new post required for EU NIP) and a Principal Officer / PPTO (Grade 7): EU Product Safety (new post required for EU NIP). It is then hoped the 2 POs will sit on interview panels to appoint staff within their respective teams to fill the vacancies highlighted below:

  • DP / SPTO: EU Chemicals (new post required for EU NIP)
  • EO1 x 2: EO1 / PTO EU Chemicals (new posts required for EU NIP)
  • Principal Officer / PPTO (Grade 7): EU Product Safety (new post required for EU NIP)
  • DP /SPTO: EU Product Safety (new post required for EU NIP)
  • EO1 x 2 EO1 / PTO: EU Product Safety (new posts required for EU NIP)

Two DPs in Legislation Unit have been replaced. One has already retired and one due to retire.

A Staff Officer in the finance unit has retired, it is hoped to replace this post with a SO Accountant in order to provide accountancy support within the team. The current DP Accountant is due to go on maternity leave. An agency staff member has been recruited to cover this maternity leave period.

The Chief Executive highlighted the Trainee Inspector Competition - HSENI is progressing work on developing a training programme for Trainee Inspectors. HSENI is liaising with NICS HR to initiate a competition once the training programme has been agreed.

A discussion took place in relation to staff vacancies. The Chief Executive said the length of time it takes to get through the NICS HR system has proved challenging. He stated that the Department and the Economy Committee have been made aware of the situation.

Dr Hart asked about triggers for sickness absence and what is a significant sickness absence. The Chief Executive explained that there are two levels of significant sickness. More than 20 days in one sick absence period or more than two absence periods within a 12 month rolling period are considered long term absences.

9. Finance Report

The Chief Executive apologised for the lack of a finance report due to staff changes within the Department. The Chief Executive updated the Board verbally on the end of year finance for HSENI subject to final verification.  He assured the Board that the Department’s Accountant had confirmed that HSENI is expected to come in within the 1% tolerance.  The Chair asked that all figures are available for the year end meeting on 24 June 2021.

10. Legislation Report

The Chief Executive reported that the Legislation Unit is continuing to work under significant pressure with the majority of legislation being made.  The latest position regarding draft EU Exit Regulations is as follows:

  • Draft Biocidal Products (Fees and Charges) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021 - The draft Regulations have been cleared by Departmental Solicitor’s Office. The Briefing and motion for approval have been prepared and when cleared, Ministers approval will be sought. A Date for the debate will then be arranged
  • Draft Equipment and Protective Systems Intended for Use in Potentially Explosive Atmospheres (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021 - A revised draft of the Regulations was passed to the Departmental Solicitor’s Office for vetting on 16th April 2021
  • Draft Chemicals (Health and Safety) and Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021 - A revised draft of the Regulations was passed to the Departmental Solicitor’s Office for vetting on 9th April 2021 following which legal clearance has been received. An SL1 is currently being prepared  to issue to the DfE Committee Clerk and a submission is being drafted for the attention of the DfE Minister
  • The Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021 - The Regulations will require the approval of the Northern Ireland Assembly before they can be made. Legislation Unit has been working through DSO queries and their clearance of the draft Regulations is required before a debate in the Assembly can be arranged. DSO has subsequently informed HSENI that it does not offer a drafting service and has recommended that an external drafter be engaged to advise on the Regulations. DSO is to provide further instructions to HSENI as to what will be required for costings etc.

In relation to all the above entries, HSENI is liaising with GB colleagues to help ensure that requirements such as amendments to comply with the Northern Ireland Protocol are met.

The Chair stated that he recognises the pressure under which the small team is working. The Chair asked that the Board be kept informed of any developments.

The Board noted the remainder of the report.

11. EU Exit

The Chief Executive updated the Board on EU Exit preparations.

The Chief Executive reported that interviews have been completed for two Principal Officer / PPTO (Grade 7): EU Chemicals (new post required for EU NIP) and a Principal Officer / PPTO (Grade 7): EU Product Safety (new post required for EU NIP). It is then hoped that the two POs can interview candidates to fill vacancies within their teams.

However it will be September 2021 before all staff are in post and fully trained. The Chief Executive assured the Board that the team will be able to deal with queries on Product Safety and Chemicals on a reactive basis until this time. 

12. Trainee Inspector Training

Mrs Monson updated the Board on the training programme for trainee inspectors. For many years Health and Safety Inspectors have been recruited and trained through the Regulators Training Programme run by HSE GB. This programme has a capped capacity as each trainee requires to be overseen by both a local workplace mentor as well as one appointed by HSE GB. HSE GB is struggling to get places for its own trainees and is unable to offer HSENI appropriate numbers. As a result of this, SMT made a decision to investigate a new approach for delivering the appropriate training and are currently finalising a new proposed way of recruiting and training H&S Inspectors. This would involve delivering a local training programme, giving HSENI scope to recruit a larger cohort of trainees and benefit from savings on travel and subsistence.

The programme would involve recruiting people with a NEBOSH Diploma and supplement this with a regulatory element delivered by an external company, as well as on the job training to allow progression to a Health and Safety Inspector within two years without diluting the standard of training required.

It would be HSENI’s intention to run a pilot programme following consultation and engagement with TU side and with the provison that we will avail of some of the HSE GB online training resources.

Mrs Monson reported to the Board that the five trainees who started in March 2019 have now been enrolled on the RTP training. The training will last for two years and they are on course to complete by August 2022.

The three trainees who started in October 2019 are enrolled on the RTP training as of September 2021. They have commenced the e-learning elements of the course. Work is also progressing via workshops and tutorials. They should complete training in Spring 2024.

A discussion took place in relation to the training. The Chair stated that it remains a cause of concern to the Board and that he expects an update at each meeting or early notice of any significant changes.

13. AOB

Business Case – Land Use Planning Contract

Mrs Monson presented the paper on Land Use Planning to the Board. HSENI is a statutory consultee under planning legislation, for planning applications around major hazard sites/pipelines and for hazardous substances consent applications.

HSENI responds to the Planning Service with advice to mitigate a major accident's effects on the population around a major hazard site. HSENI requires land use planning assessments for existing and proposed major hazard sites/pipelines and hazardous substances consent applications.

HSENI must comply with its legislative requirement, and as suitable in-house expertise is absent, the only option is to buy in the necessary expertise. The Board is asked to approve this contract for spend of over £50k for three years.

A discussion took place in relation to the contract.

The Board granted approval for the Land Use Planning Contract.

Mental Well Being Paper

The Chair asked if anyone had any questions in relation to the Mental Well-being Paper included with the Board papers. Mrs Monson stated she is happy to take any comments and feel free to contact her.

The Chair informed the Board that the Board meeting on 24 June would commence at 11:30am after the ARMC meeting.

The Chair thanked all for attending.

14. Date of next Board Meeting

The next Board meeting will be held on Thursday 24 June 2021 at 11:30am.

The meeting ended at 16:30pm.