HSENI Board meeting minutes - 2 February 2023

Minutes of the 124th meeting of the Board of the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland held on Thursday 2 February 2023 at the T&R room, HSENI, Ladas Drive, at 9:30am.


Board Members:

  • Mr D Martin - Chair
  • Mr H Sinclair
  • Mr T Wright (remotely)
  • Mr S McDowell
  • Mrs S Rooney
  • Mrs C Irwin
  • Mr G Strong

HSENI Officials:

  • Mr R Kidd - Chief Executive
  • Dr B Monson - Deputy Chief Executive
  • Mrs N Monson - Deputy Cheif Executive
  • Mr L Burns - Deputy Chief Executive
  • Mr K Neeson - Deputy Chief Executive
  • Mr M Ditchfield - HSENI Financial Management Unit
  • Ms L Nelson - Minutes

The Chair welcomed everyone and thanked all for their attendance at the HSENI Board meeting.  The Chair explained that the agenda was amended to allow Mr T Wright (ARMC Chair) to provide the ARMC update so that he could attend another meeting.

1. Apologies

  • Mr A Cooke
  • Dr P Hart

2. Audit and Risk Management Committee (ARMC) Report

The ARMC Chair highlighted the following as having been discussed at the ARMC meeting on 19 January 2023:

  • Data Security – the Committee requested assurance that all staff have completed cyber security training. An update will be provided at the next ARMC meeting.
  • Internal Audit Update – ‘Satisfactory’ assurance rating achieved for two audits, review of HSENI’s Risk Management Processes and review of Budget Management.  One recommendation was received in each audit, and management have accepted both recommendations.
  • Consolidated Accounts and Early Closing – The ARMC Chair explained the new process of consolidated accounts to Board members.  Public sector bodies including Arms Length Bodies (ALBs) must submit their accounts to be amalgamated with their Department’s accounts into a consolidated pack.  The ARMC Chair stated that the dates for submission of the accounts would prove challenging for HSENI.  The matter was discussed at length and the Chief Executive reported that HSENI has requested a meeting with Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) to discuss timelines. The matter will also be brought to the Oversight & Liaison Meeting (O&L) with the Department.

Mr Ditchfield reported that HSENI’s Finance team (FMU) will liaise with Ross Boyd Ltd (external auditor) in relation to securing a date for the external audit.  HSENI’s intention is to aim for the date of Friday 7 July for laying of the accounts before summer recess but will need NIAO to confirm dates.

The ARMC Chair assured the Board members that he is liaising with the Chief Executive, the Chair and FMU staff in relation to the matter.

  • Audit recommendations progress paper – good progress is being made in relation to recommendations, especially the outstanding GDPR recommendations.
  • Risk register – risk of underspend due to vacancies.  Senior Management Team (SMT) is liaising with HR Connect in relation to this matter.   
  • Review of ARMC Terms of Reference (ToR) – updated ARMC ToR was circulated to members ahead of the January ARMC meeting.  All changes were discussed at the meeting and it was agreed to approve the updated ARMC ToR.

3. Corporate Health, Safety and Welfare

The Chief Executive reported that there were no issues to report.

4. Declaration of Conflict of Interest(s)

None to report.

5. Minutes from previous meeting

The minutes of the Board meeting held on 27 October 2022 were circulated to Board members prior to the meeting.  The minutes were approved and adopted.

6. Matters Arising

Mr Burns reported that actions 1 and 2 have been completed.  Action 3 will be discussed under Any Other Business (AOB).  Comments have been received in relation to action 4 and will be collated and discussed at a later date.  Action 5, printed copies of the Annual Report and Accounts are available at the meeting today.

7. Chief Executive’s Report

The Chief Executive highlighted the following key points:

  • Fatalities/serious injuries figures
  • Inspection numbers
  • Complaints
  • Increase in Improvement Notices (INs) and Prohibition Notices (PNs)
  • Risk Register

Mr Strong asked for an explanation of the recruitment process.  The Chief Executive outlined the recruitment process from the submission of the funding and headcount form to the sift for eligibility.  The Chief Executive stated that the problem was getting the initial meeting arranged with HR Connect to start the process.

Mr Strong stated that whilst working for the Commissioner for Public Appointments NI that most Government Departments were experiencing a similar problem as HSENI in recruiting desirable staff, and after agreement with those Departments, agreed to use a dual advertising process to attract more candidates from a more diverse background.  Mrs Monson stated that HSENI did use this approach when recruiting for the last intake of trainee inspectors.

Mr Burns reported that HSENI does ask for a timeline from the initiation meeting to start date for vacancies but HR Connect has never provided one.  He stated that provision of an estimated timeline for the process would help reduce the finance issues in relation to underspend.

The Chair stated that the Board is aware of the situation in relation to the length of time taken to fill vacancies and the subsequent issues in relation to finance and the risk of being unable to fulfil statutory duties due to insufficient staff.  He reported that it may be necessary to contact the Department at a higher level to highlight the situation.  The Chief Executive reported that the issue has a massive impact across all departments and not just ALBs.  The Chair said that it is important that the Board is kept aware of the situation and that he would write to the Department in the future if required.

Mr McDowell stated it was good to see the increase in inspection visits and that the numbers of serious and major injuries figures were down.   However, he asked if HSENI would be taking any action as the ‘over 3 day’ figures are increasing.  The Chief Executive explained ‘over 3 day’ figures are predominantly within the Public Sector group and involve slips, trips and falls in hospitals and schools.  Mrs Monson stated it comes down to the priority of resourcing, and that there is a higher volume of incidents with lower impact which is something HSENI cannot control.  The Public Sector team tries to influence and address slips, trips and falls during all visits.  Mr Neeson commented that the figure also relates to peripatetic workers.

The Chair stated that it was encouraging to see an increase in inspections, PIs and INs.

Mrs Rooney commented on the small fine for a prosecution in Annex C of the document.  A discussion took place but this is out of HSENI’s control.

8. Finance Report

The following items on the Finance report were highlighted by Mr Ditchfield:

  • Forecast variance November 2022 – January 2023
  • Financial position at 18 November 2022 after January monitoring round
  • Financial position at 4 January 2023
  • Financial position at 23 January 2023

Mr Ditchfield reported that following December month end financial work, HSENI identified an underspend in salaries, GAE and capital.  The underspend in salaries is largely due to staff leaving and delays in filling vacancies.  The programme budget is forecast to have 0.1% underspend which may result in an overspend should any extra costs materialise before the end of the financial year.  HSENI asked DfE’s Central Finance Team if HSENI could utilise the underspend in salaries, GAE and capital to do additional programme work.  On 12 January 2023, DfE Central Finance Team advised that the underspend in salaries, GAE and capital could be used to fund programme spend.

Mr McDowell asked what the extra funding would be spent on.  Mr Ditchfield advised that funding would be used to cover costs associated with an Occupational Health Event on 7 March, planning for the Workplace Transport initiative for next year, additional work on the Occupational Health initiative for 2024/2025 and printing of leaflets and promotional items.

The Chair asked if there was a danger of HSENI’s budget being cut next year as a result of the underspend in this year’s budget. The Chief Executive stated that is hard to predict but said he suspected any cut would be more likely as part of a wider impact of the NI block grant settlement next year. He explained that the Department has been kept fully apprised of our financial projections at every stage in the process.  He thanked Mr Ditchfield for maintaining regular contact with Finance colleagues in DfE and ensuring that the Department is kept informed of any financial issues in a timely manner.

Mrs Rooney stated that the Chief Executive highlighted in his report that the budget for 2023/2024 will be the same as 2022/2023.  The Chief Executive reported that as no opening budget has been received, this is what HSENI has to work on as an operating assumption until the budget is confirmed.

9. Legislation Report

Mr Burns highlighted progress on five consultations and two sets of EU Exit Regulations on the Legislation Board report.

Mr Burns updated the Board members on Retained EU law Regulations (REUL) – all domestic legislation with origins in EU may have to be replaced or retained by December 2023.  HSENI is working with HSE (GB) in relation to the matter.  It could potentially bring a lot of work for the Legislation team. SMT’s preferred option is to retain our Legislation book.

Mrs Irwin asked if this has been added as an emerging risk to the risk register.  Mr Burns reported that it has not yet been added but it will be added to the Quarter 4 risk register, once more information about the matter is available.

10. Any other business (AOB)

External Board Review – The Chair reported that it is good practice to carry out an external Board review every three years.  The Chief Executive provided background information to the external review and reported on proposals from external bodies.

The Chief Executives' Forum (CEF) can carry out the review over nine days during February/March. The Chief Executive recommended that the Board agrees to work with the CEF to allow the review to be completed before the end of March and paid from this year’s budget.  The Chief Executive will share the proposed format from CEF with Board members and asked that if anyone has amendments please reply as soon as possible.

CEF will engage with each Board member either face-to-face or via Zoom., They will then produce a draft report.  The Chair agreed that the review should be carried out.  Mrs Irwin asked if there would be the opportunity to benchmark.  The Chief Executive agreed to talk to CEF in relation to benchmarking.

HSENI All Staff Event – The Chief Executive reported that the La Mon Hotel has been booked for Thursday 2 March 2023 for an All Staff Event.  SMT will present the Corporate Plan to staff on the day.  The Chair stated that this was an important event and encouraged all Board members to attend as it was also an opportunity to meet HSENI staff members.

Board Insights Training – The Chief Executive reported that Insights Training has been booked for Board members for 29 March 2023 at the NICS Pavilion, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast.  The trainers will issue all attendees with an Insights Discovery questionnaire. The Chief Executive encouraged all to complete and return the questionnaire by the deadline.

A discussion took place in relation to the Insights Training and the benefits of it in both work and personal life.  More information will follow before the one day training.

Remuneration Committee - Revised Terms of Reference (ToR) –– The Chair reported that after discussion with the Chief Executive and the Department, the Remuneration Committee has been renamed as the

Annual Review Committee.  The Chair, Mrs Rooney and Mr Strong met and drew up a draft revised ToR for the Annual Review Committee, which was shared and agreed with the Chief Executive and the Department.

The Chair, Mr Wright, Mr Strong and Mrs Rooney will sit on the Annual Review Committee.  Mrs Irwin stated that the ToR is well written. She advised she is content that the Committee is continuing and thanked all involved.

Internal Audit Contract – The Chief Executive reported that the Internal Audit contract expires on 26 July 2023.  Central Procurement Directorate (CPD) has advised HSENI that the current market value for this type of service has risen significantly since 2020.  They have advised that based on a 30 day annual audit programme for a period of three years, costs could be in the region of £85,500 for 3 years.

HSENI is keen to ensure they receive an adequate number of tenders and are seeking Board approval to go to tender with a contract maximum value of £86,000.

Mrs Rooney asked if there was a caveat on an upper limit of spending.  A discussion took place and it was agreed that the Board would approve a ceiling figure as well as the indicative figure.  On this basis the Board approved spend of up to £100k for the Internal Audit contract.

Decision Time – The Chief Executive reported that everyone had received their Board papers via Decision Time (DT).  A discussion took place in relation to the DT portal. Everyone was content with accessing Board papers in this new format and it was agreed to also use DT for the ARMC papers.  It was also agreed that Board papers would no longer be issued via email.

UKAS Accreditation – The Chief Executive reported that the HSENI Lab had successfully acquired UKAS Accreditation on 1 February 2023.  The Chief Executive congratulated and thanked all staff involved in the audit.  The Chair, on behalf of the Board, echoed the Chief Executive’s comments.

April Board Meeting - Mr Burns asked the Board to note that the 27 April 2023 Board meeting may be longer than usual as there would be presentations in relation to the Operating Plan etc. 

The Chair asked if everyone would be content to continue starting the Board and ARMC meetings at 09:30 as it allowed more time to get through the agenda.  Going forward all agreed on a 09:30 start. (For ARMC 9:30 will be the start of the pre-meet with the full meeting commencing at 10:00).

The Chair thanked all for attending.

11. Date of next Board Meeting

The next Board meeting will be held on Thursday 27 April 2023 at 9:30am.

The meeting ended at 11:55am.

Board Minutes adopted and approved and signed by Derek Martin, HSENI Clairman on 27 April 2023.