HSENI Board meeting minutes - 26 October 2023

Minutes of the 128th meeting of the Board of the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland held on Thursday 26 October 2023 at the T&R Room, HSENI, 83 Ladas Drive at 10.00am. Pre-meeting for Board members at 9.30am.


Board Members:

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

HSENI Officials:

  • Mr R Kidd - Chief Executive
  • Mr L Burns -  Deputy Chief Executive
  • Dr B Monson - Deputy Chief Executive
  • Mrs N Monson - Deputy Chief Executive
  • Mr K Neeson - Deputy Chief Executive
  • Mr M Ditchfield - HSENI Finance Unit
  • Ms L Nelson - HSENI (minutes)

Mr D Malcolm, DfE, attended the pre-meeting at 9:30am with the Chair and the Board members.

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting including Mr McKay and Ms O’Neill from DoF’s Business Consultancy Service and thanked them for attending.

Prior to the full Board meeting, Mr McKay and Ms O’Neill from Business Consultancy Services, who have been tasked as part of a review team to look at all Arms Length Bodies (ALBs) in the public sector, provided an introduction to the Board to explain their role and the process involved in undertaking the HSENI review on behalf of DfE and how the board will be involved as stakeholders.

After the introduction, Board members felt that they would benefit from a workshop to enable them to consider and answer questions as there was not enough time at the Board meeting to gain the required information.

After a discussion it was agreed a workshop will be arranged to allow Board members to discuss HSENI’s strengths, the organisation’s impact and challenges/areas for improvement. A copy of the slides and the HSENI review overview will be emailed to Board members.


  • a Board workshop to be arranged to discuss the review
  • HSENI review overview and slides to be emailed to Board members

Mr McKay and Ms O’Neill left the meeting at 11:00am.

1. Apologies


2. Corporate health, safety and welfare

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

3. Declaration of Conflict of Interest(s)

It was noted that there was no change in the reported conflict of interest relating to Mr Cooke reported at the July Board meeting.

4. Minutes

The minutes of the Board meeting held on 27 July 2023 were agreed and adopted.

5. Matters arising

The Chief Executive reported that the three actions from the previous meeting have been completed.

6. Audit and Risk Management Committee (ARMC) report

The ARMC Chair highlighted the following as having been discussed at the ARMC meeting on 12 October 2023:

Internal Audit Charter

The ARMC Chair highlighted an inaccuracy in the ARMC draft minutes of the 12 October 2023 meeting. The Internal Audit Charter was presented to the committee. The Internal Audit Charter was approved by the committee at the meeting. It was reported that the document would be presented to the Board at its next meeting for approval. This is not normal procedure. Once the ARMC approves the document, it is presented to the Board to note. The ARMC Chair apologised for the error.

Internal Audit Strategy

The ARMC Chair reported that the Internal Audit Strategy for the period 2023-2026 was presented to the committee. The committee met with Ms McHugh and had input into the document. The ARMC Chair assured the Board that the strategy was developed on a risk based approach. The ARMC approved the document.

Report To Those Charged with Governance (RTTCWG)

The ARMC Chair reported that the final RTTCWG was presented to the committee for information. The ARMC Chair also reported that last year it was challenging with added pressure on staff to make the deadline for early closing of the accounts. He recommends early engagement with Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) staff this year ahead of early closing of the accounts.

HSENI Risk Register

The ARMC Chair reported that the committee is content with the risk register and the way that the Senior Management Team (SMT) is managing the risks.

Audit Recommendations Progress Paper

The ARMC Chair is pleased to note good progress continues in relation to outstanding recommendations. There is only one outstanding GDPR recommendation out of nine in total and this is in relation to third party actions. This is a testament to SMT and HSENI staff for the work carried out to date. He expressed thanks to all involved.

Data Breach Update Paper

The ARMC Chair reported that the committee received confirmation of actions taken from HSENI after a high profile public sector data breach. He stated that this provided assurance to the committee and the Board that HSENI has a good level of security in relation to data handling.

The ARMC Chair’s tenure on HSENI’s Board will end on 31 October 2023.  The ARMC Chair thanked ARMC members past and present for their support. He thanked the Chief Executive and SMT as well as Mrs Mullan and Ms Nelson for their support and guidance. The ARMC Chair stated that the committee will be in safe hands with Mr McDowell as the new ARMC Chair and the other committee members.

Mrs Rooney enquired about the amendment to the minutes. The ARMC Chair reported that the inaccuracy has been recorded today and would also be noted at the next ARMC meeting.

Mrs Rooney thanked Mr Wright for his time as ARMC Chair, sending him her best wishes.

The Chair stated that the ARMC is an important aspect of the Board, ensuring correct procedures in relation to governance are followed. The Chair commended the thoroughness of the work carried out by the committee and thanked Mr Wright for his time as the ARMC Chair.

7. Chief Executive’s Report​​​​​

The Chief Executive highlighted the following key points:

  • accident statistics
  • corporate plan targets including fatal and serious, majors, over-three-days, inspections, improvement and prohibition notices
  • results of the employee engagement survey for 2023 comparing last years HSENI and NICS figures
  • Annex A - KPA and graphs
  • Annex B - fatalities
  • Annex C - prosecutions
  • Annex E - HR report

The Chief Executive reported that the results from the employee engagement survey show that HSENI achieved the highest response rate and the highest staff engagement index throughout the NICS. DAERA staff have contacted the Chief Executive to discuss the survey results. Mr Malcolm has also asked the Chief Executive to speak at a session he is running in relation to the survey results.

The Chair stated that the survey results reflect the tone of the organisation. The Chief Executive and SMT provide good leadership and direction and are visible and accessible to staff. Mr Wright endorsed the Chair’s comments, stating that SMT underestimate their influence as senior managers.

Mrs Rooney endorsed what has already been stated by the Chair and Mr Wright. Mrs Rooney asked if SMT had plans to look at and develop Learning & Development and Leadership & Managing Change as their scores, although improved, were considerably lower than others. The Chief Executive reported that the training offered to staff can be mandatory, voluntary or required training and not everyone avails of the voluntary training. SMT will explore Learning & Development and Leadership & Managing Change in the Workforce Wellbeing Steering Group (WWSG).

Mr McDowell expressed recognition at the results and asked if SMT is concerned that the goodwill from staff will continue as no pay reward has yet been offered to staff. The Chief Executive thanked Mr McDowell for his question and reported that SMT will explore the issue of morale in the Workforce Wellbeing Steering Group (WWSG).

Mr Wright expressed concern in relation to the number of fatalities regarding older farmers and asked if there was anything else HSENI can do to reach older farmers. Dr Monson reported that older farmers had been identified as a significant issue at the Farm Safety Partnership and will be included on its next action plan. 

Mrs Rooney enquired about the incidents in the healthcare sector and asked if this was a concern. Mrs Monson reported that there has always been a number of healthcare incidents. The Chair asked if RQIA should investigate these incidents. Mrs Monson reported that they do not investigate individual deaths. 

The Chair reported he was surprised to see a spike in fatalities over the summer. Dr Monson reported that the summer is a busy time for farming.

8. Finance Report

Mr Ditchfield highlighted the following points:

  • January monitoring round returned 26.10.23 - this is the last formal opportunity to bid, reallocate or surrender funds
  • underspend in salaries/admin has been transferred to the programme budget.
  • Overview of forecasts and capital budget - currently forecasting an underspend of 2.5% - Finance Management Unit (FMU) continues to monitor the financial situation

The Chief Executive provided an update on plans to spend available money on the Occupational Health campaign due to commence next year subject to business case approval by the Board.

9. Legislation Report

Mr Burns highlighted the four consultations, three sets of Northern Ireland Domestic Regulations and four sets of EU Exit Regulations on the Legislation Board report. Mr Burns assured the Board that the Legislation team is making legislation where it is possible. Mr Wright asked if there was any exposure to risk. Mr Burns reported the risk is low as HSENI can still enforce using previous regulations.

The Board noted the Legislation Board report.

10. Any Other Business (AOB)

The Chair requested that 10 (ii) ‘Revised Board Standing Orders’ and ‘Amendment of the Standing Orders of the HSENI Board to allow for the continuation of functions in the event of vacancies’ be discussed first.

10 (ii) Revised Standing Orders on the issue of addressing Conflicts of Interest. Mr Burns reported that the revised Board Standing Orders was discussed at the Partnership Meeting with the department on 24.10.23.  The department requested that in paragraph 14 the following words be added in:

"In the event that HSENI finds itself investigating a company or other organisation for which HSENI has enforcement responsibility, where a board member has a significant role or could be involved in the investigation process, that board member should at the earliest opportunity declare a potential conflict of interest (actual or perceived) and be required to step down from board business until the proceedings have completed. This action will serve to protect the reputation of all parties including the organisation, the individual member and the rest of the board as a corporate entity."

The department requested that paragraphs 17 and 18 were removed from the updated document.

"The board member will continue to be paid during this time."

"If the individual’s period of service on the board comes to an end whilst the investigation or its proceedings remain outstanding, then their tenure will end."

A full discussion took place in relation to the updated document. Mrs Irwin asked that the document be made gender neutral and reference to ‘Chairman’ be removed.

It was agreed in principle, subject to the final document being emailed to Board members for approval by email.


  • document to be made gender neutral
  • document to be amended and issued to Board members via email for final approval

10 (ii) Amendment of the standing orders of the HSENI Board to allow for the continuation of functions in the event of vacancies. The Chair provided an update on the upcoming Board vacancies. The matter was also discussed with Mr Malcolm, DfE, during his attendance at the Board closed session.

DfE wants to ensure that the HSENI board continues to function. Three main areas have been identified where continuity of HSENI Board functions are required in the absence of a quorate board:

  1. General oversight.
  2. Common seal (normally only required for the signing and authorising of an inspector’s warrant).
  3. Financial approval to spend.

The Board is asked to approve the following additions to its standing orders:

  1. The following sub paragraphs outline the procedures to be followed if the positions of Chair and Deputy Chair are unfilled:
    1. The quorum will be reduced to 50% of all current members of the Board plus one.
    2. The remaining members attending the Board meeting will agree a member to chair any meeting of the HSENI Board. This does not mean that person becomes the Chair of the Board (as defined in Article 12(1) of the Health and Safety at Work (NI) Order 1978).
    3. Any member is permitted to authenticate the common seal of the Executive by their signature.
  2. In the event that the Board is not quorate or unable to meet, DfE sponsor branch can approve HSENI business cases over £50,000

A lengthy conversation took place in relation to extending the standing orders to cover the position should the Chair be vacant.

Mrs Rooney suggested adding the word ‘Governance’ at point a. above describing the role of the Board.  It was agreed to include Governance at point a. on the Board paper.

A full discussion took place in relation to the addition of the four points above. It was agreed subject to confirmation by email and confirmation of DfE’s approval of the document.

Dr Hart left the meeting at 1.10pm.

Mr Ditchfield left the meeting at 1:30pm.


  • the word Governance to be added to point a. describing the role of the Board on the Board paper - Point a. will read General Oversight and Governance

10 (i) HSENI Internal Audit Charter

The Board noted the HSENI Internal Audit Charter.

10 (iii) HSENI Updated Conflict of Interest Guidance

The Board approved the updated HSENI Conflicts of Interest Guidance.

10 (iv) Schedule of 2024 Board meetings

The Board noted the 2024 schedule of Board meetings.

10 (v) HSENI Discussion of Annual Report and Accounts

The Board noted the discussion of the Annual Report and Accounts.

Closing remarks from the Chair

The Chair thanked Mr Wright for his nine years of service, for chairing the ARMC and for his support to the Chair.

The Chair thanked Mr Sinclair for his nine years of service and his time on the Farm Safety Partnership and the ARMC.

The Chair thanked the Board members and the Executive team for their support over his tenure. He wished the organisation every success.

The Chief Executive thanked the Chair, Mr Wright and Mr Sinclair for their work on the Board and their support to SMT and the organisation. The Chief Executive, on behalf of HSENI, conveyed his best wishes to all three.

Mr Sinclair thanked the Chair and the Chief Executive for their kind words.  He stated that he had enjoyed his nine years on the Board, he had gained a lot personally and hoped that he had also brought strengths to the table.

Mr Wright stated that he found his nine years on the Board very rewarding and that he enjoyed being part of the Board. He found HSENI to be very professional, especially during Covid, and that this was a testament to management, staff and the Board.

The Chair thanked Ms Nelson and Mrs Mullan for their support during his time as Chair.

The Chair thanked all for attending.

11. Date of next Board Meeting

Thursday 1 February 2024 at 10.00am.

Pre-meeting for Board members at 9.30am.

Board closed at 11.50am.

Board Minutes adopted and approved and signed by Catherine Irwin, HSENI Board member on 1 February 2024.