HSENI Board meeting minutes - 27 April 2023

Minutes of the 125th meeting of the Board of the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland held on Thursday 27 April 2023 at the T&R Room, HSENI, Ladas Drive at 9.30am.


Board Members:

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

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
  • Mr C Jack -  DfE
  • Mr L Rogers - DfE

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting. The Chair welcomed Mr Jack, Grade 5, Business and Employment Regulation Division and Mr Rogers, Grade 7, Better Business Branch, DfE to the meeting and thanked them for their attendance. The Chair invited everyone to introduce themselves.

1. Apologies

No apologies were received.

2. Corporate health, safety and welfare

The Chief Executive reported that there were no issues to report and for information that HSENI was carrying out a review of HSENI’s Lone Working Policy.

3. Declaration of Conflict of Interest(s)

None to report.

4. Minutes

The minutes of the Board meeting held on 2 February 2023 and the Extraordinary Board meeting held on 17 February 2023 were circulated to Board members prior to the meeting. The minutes were approved and adopted.

5. Matters arising

The Chief Executive reported that all actions 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 5th April 2023:

  • Internal Audit Update – ‘Satisfactory’ assurance rating achieved for review of HSENI’s Information Security Processes. Two priority 2 recommendations were received as a result of the audit and management have accepted both recommendations
  • Internal Audit – Follow Up Review 2022 – 2023 – Mr C Kelly was able to provide AMRC with assurance over management action and implementation of previous audit recommendations
  • Annual Internal Audit Report 2022 – 2023 – Mr C Kelly was able to provide HSENI with a ‘Satisfactory’ overall assurance rating in relation to its system of governance, risk management and control
  • External Audit – NIAO Audit Strategy 2022 – 2023 – ARMC received assurance that HSENI would meet key dates in the audit strategy
  • Audit recommendations progress – ARMC is content with progress and action being taken to implement recommendationsThe ARMC Committee has requested an action plan to be provided at the next ARMC meeting, highlighting key dates for implementation of the two recommendations
  • GDPR recommendations update - ARMC is content that HSENI has implemented the recommendations outside of its control as far as possible. The remaining actions fall to other Departments to implement
  • Risk register – The Chief Executive reported on the query raised by Mrs C Irwin (ARMC meeting 5.4.23) to include ‘IMU vacancies’ in column 4 of CR4. SMT reviewed and accepted this recommendation. Mrs S Rooney (ARMC meeting 5.4.23) proposed that in CR4 the Residual Impact/Likelihood should perhaps read 2/3 and that for CR5, Business Disruption Risk, the Residual Impact/Likelihood should perhaps read 3/3.  SMT reviewed and discussed the risk register and is content to leave as is. The Chair thanked SMT for reviewing the document, stating that it is the responsibility of the management team to manage the risk. Mrs S Rooney stated she would like this to be kept under review

Dr P Hart thanked the ARMC Chair for the report. She stated she had some concerns on the findings of the Information Security Processes audit. Specifically these were:

  •  Risk 1 - HSENI may have inadequate policies and procedures in place in relation to Information Security and data protection leading to a failure to comply with the legislation
  • Risk 2 - there may be inadequate arrangements in place for the secure record management of data leading to an increased risk of data breaches
  • Risk 3 - there may be insufficient training provisions within HSENI to ensure information security and compliance with the legislation requirements

Mr Burns explained that these were not the findings of the audit but were areas considered in the audit for which HSENI received a Satisfactory assurance. The ARMC Chair explained that there were two priority 2 recommendations in relation to Record of Processing Activities (ROPA) and the Retention and Disposal Schedule (R&D Schedule).

A lengthy discussion took place in relation to the implementation dates of the two recommendations. The Chief Executive highlighted the staffing issues within the Information Management Unit (IMU). The work to implement both recommendations involves the whole organisation, it is a staff intensive piece of work and will impact on operational ability. The ARMC Chair reported that the ARMC Committee is aware of the implementation dates and has requested an action plan to be provided at the next ARMC meeting, highlighting key dates for implementation of the recommendations.

The Chair thanked Mr T Wright for his report on the ARMC committee meeting.

7. Chief Executive’s Report

The Chief Executive highlighted the following key points:

  • performance and current issues
  • fatalities/Serious/Majors Injuries and over three day accidents – full year and YTD figures. The Corporate Plan target for fatalities, serious and majors were all met
  • corporate plan targets – inspections and over three days not achieved due to covid and being unable to deploy inspectors and staff vacancies
  • Risk Register - Residual Risks – two residual risks rated as high in relation to three sets of EU regulations and recruitment delays, industrial action and staff burnout. One residual risk rated as moderate in relation to mishandling of personal data
  • Internal Audit
  • Corporate Plan Staff Event – the Chief Executive thanked the Chair and Board members for their support
  • Annex A – KPI report and Commentary on KPIs
  • Annex B – Fatalities
  • Annex C – Prosecutions – 18 prosecutions of 13 companies
  • Annex D – Events, Campaigns and Publications – social active interaction has been very active in the period
  • Annex E – HR Report – sickness absence due to staff on long term sick absence
  • Annex F – Key diary appointments
  • Annex G – Examples of significant discretionary spend items in 2023/2024 - Child and Young Person’s Safety on Farms, Child farm safety calendar, event e.g. Balmoral Show, Clogher and Antrim Agri show, Farm Safety Media Campaign and Workplace Transport Campaign

Mr S McDowell asked when the exercise in relation to disposal of files would commence as delays to the start date would result in HSENI falling behind every month. Mr L Burns reported that HSENI does not have the staff to carry out the exercise. IMU is carrying two vacancies, one for 12 months and one for 6 months. The work cannot be carried out by an agency worker as it is specialised, and staff recruited are required to complete a qualification which can take a further 18 – 24 months. Mr C Jack asked for an update on the current position for filling the posts. Mr L Burns reported that a few months ago NICS HR intended to run a service wide competition for DPs and SOs but there has been no recent update on the competition. The Chair asked what the risk is if it is not completed. Mr L Burns reported that any risk of data being lost still remains low. The main issue is that HSENI must liaise with Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) as they may wish to retain some of the files.

The Chair stated that HSENI needs to keep monitoring the situation and push for the required recruitment of staff. The ARMC Chair reported that there was a full discussion on the issue at the ARMC meeting, and that the Committee had received a level of assurance that storage arrangements in place at present were secure and presented a low risk. An action plan is to be presented at the next ARMC meeting highlighting key dates and this should address concerns.

A discussion took place in relation to the Farm Safety Partnership. Dr Monson updated everyone on discussions he has had with DAERA staff and the availability of the £90k match funding. The poster competition will run online and may or may not end up in a calendar, depending on the funding available. Another option is to ask FSP affiliates for sponsorship for the calendar. Dr Monson reported that as HSENI is not taking a stand at the Balmoral show, partners have offered assistance to get the message out, as it is a great opportunity to make contact with young people.

The Chair asked if the statistics in the report are confirmed for the full year. Mr Burns reported that the final statistics will be run on the first working day of May, but he does not expect there to be many changes.

The Chair stated that it is encouraging to see the trend across the five years of the Corporate plan, even with the pandemic. There is a significant increase in inspections, advisory contacts, Prohibition Notices (PNs) and Improvement Notices (INs). Mr Sinclair stated it is important to have face to face inspections caried out.

The Chair invited Mr Jack to say a few words. Mr Jack stated he was pleased to be invited to the Board meeting and hoped that the new Board members found it rewarding. Mr Jack introduced Mr Rogers, head of HSENI’s Partner Team in DfE.

Mr Jack reported that there has been restructuring within his division and thar Mr Rogers and Mr Marley are also the contacts for Labour Relations Agency (LRA). Mr Jack believes that there are opportunities for synergy between HSENI and LRA in relation to occupational health, employment relations and stress at work.

Mr Jack reported on problems arising in relation to budgets, public appointments, NI Protocol budget and the REUL Revocation & Reform Bill as a result of no Executive sitting and no Ministers in post.,

Mr Jack reported that the Department thinks highly of HSENI and sees it as a well run organisation, capable of achieving its targets. HSENI always produces good results from the NICS Staff Survey and the organisation is a valued Arm’s Length Body (ALB). Mr Jack stated that there will always be challenges, with the IMU staff issue being one example and that the Department will do what it can to help HSENI overcome any obstacles it encounters.

The Chair thanked Mr Jack for his comments and for taking the time to attend the HSENI board meeting.

8. Finance Report

Mr Ditchfield reported on the budget position at 31.03.23. The tolerance was 0.97%, this then moved to 0.6% as HSENI did not have to pay holiday accrual. However, £43,000 of Programme spend did not materialise and this pushed HSENI to be in excess of the 1% tolerance. The underspend is predicted to be 1.16%. The amount in excess of the 1% tolerance is £12,238.

The Chair thanked Mr Ditchfield for the update stating that he appreciates the work undertaken to produce the finance report. Mr Ditchfield thank Mr McLeod from the Department for his help and guidance throughout the year.

Mrs Rooney thanked Mr Ditchfield for a comprehensive finance report.

9. Legislation Report

Mr Burns highlighted progress on five consultations, two sets of Northern Ireland Domestic regulations 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.

Mr Burns reported that the Legislation unit is carrying one vacancy since October 2022.

10. Quarterly Monitoring Report

The Chief Executive reported that this was discussed earlier in the meeting under the Chief Executive’s Report – Performance and current issues.

11. Items for Board approval

HSENI Published Operating Plan

The Chief Executive reported that the draft HSENI Published Operating Plan (POP) aligns with the 2023 – 2028 HSENI Corporate Plan. Mrs Irwin stated that the document was very clearly laid out, stating that it is easy to track targets on a quarterly basis.

The Board was content to approve the content of the 2023/2024 draft HSENI Published Operating Plan.

It was noted the following steps will now take place:

  1. The HSENI POP 2023/2024 be sent to DfE Sponsor Branch to note
  2. HSENI to submit the POP to DfE to ask permission for HSENI to adopt the draft document in the absence of a Minister
  3. The HSENI POP 2023/2024 be published as a ‘draft document’ on the HSENI website
  4. Should a Minister be appointed within the period, HSENI will seek formal approval for the HSENI POP 2023/2024

Business Case - Workplace Transport Multimedia Campaign

Mr Burns invited the Board to note and approve the business case in relation to the Workplace Transport Multimedia Campaign. A discussion took place in relation to the Workplace Transport Campaign.

The Board was content to approve spend up to £140,000 for the Workplace Transport Campaign.

Business Case – Farm Safe Multimedia Campaign

Mr Burns invited the Board to note and approve the business case in relation to the farm safety multimedia campaign. A discussion took place in relation to match funding from DAERA.

The Board was content to approve spend up to £180,000 for the farm safe multimedia campaign.

The Chief Executive invited the board to indicate their strategic preference for either the Farm Safety Campaign or the Workplace Transport Initiative, in the event that we find ourselves in such a challenging budget position. Following some discussion on the matter, the board agreed not to take a view at this point but rather asked SMT to come back with recommendations at a future stage if such a scenario was to emerge.

Review of Risk Management

Mr Burns invited the Board to review HSENI’s Risk Management Policy and note the risk appetite of the organisation. The HSENI Risk Management Policy is reviewed biennially by the Board or if there is a major change in guidance. It was last reviewed and approved by the Board in January 2021.

The significant changes to the document can be found at page 26. The ‘risk appetite’ of the organisation has been changed to reflect the outputs of the 2023 – 2028 corporate plan.

Mr Burns highlighted two typos on Annex 2, page 25 of the printed document, the table has six outcomes but the title above states nine, the title needs to be changed to six. The title above the table should refer to outputs not outcomes. These amendments will be made to the document.

Mr Strong stated that he would like to receive a copy of HSENI’s Business Continuity Plan (BCP) as mentioned on page 16 of the printed document.  The Chief Executive explained that the BCP was an operational document, not a policy document and contains personal details of staff. The BCP was reviewed during an Internal Audit and received a ‘Satisfactory’ assurance rating. The BCP was also tested at the commencement of Covid. The Chief Executive provided assurance that the BCP has been fully tested. Mr Wright also confirmed that the BCP was reviewed by Internal Audit and had received a ‘Satisfactory’ assurance rating.

Mrs Irwin asked for clarification on what has changed on page 25 of the printed document, Mr Burns reported that the outcomes of the risk appetite have changed to align with the 2023 – 2028 Corporate plan. Mrs Irwin thanked Mr Burns for the clarification and stated that she thought the Risk Management Policy should be brought to the ARMC for approval before being brought to the Board.  Going forward it was agreed that the Risk Management Policy will be brought to ARMC before seeking approval at Board level.

The Board was content to approve the Risk Appetite for HSENI.

Internal Audit – Review of Internal Audit Plan and update on Tendering Exercise

Mr Burns invited the Board to note the position in relation to the review of HSENI’s internal audit plan.

The HSENI Board reviews the internal audit plan on an annual basis. This will normally be done at the April board meeting. In conjunction with CPD, HSENI is in the process of letting a new internal audit (IA) contract as the contract ends in July. Following appointment, the new provider will develop a new IA strategy and the 2023-24 IA Plan will be taken from that. When available, the new IA strategy and 2023-24 plan will be brought to the ARMC meeting and Board meeting.

At the February Board meeting the Board was asked to approve HSENI going out to tender for a new IA contract. The Board approved a tendering exercise up to the value of £100,000 over a three-year period. This figure was based on advice from CPD. Week commencing 17 April 2023, CPD informed HSENI that they had overestimated the finance and that £100,000 would be excessive. CPD advised HSENI to hold the £100,000 and tender for a contract for five years on a 3+1+1 basis. HSENI’s SMT considered the merits and risks of this proposal. SMT decided this would be the best course of action.

A discussion took place in relation to the Internal Audit tendering process and completion of audits during 2023/24. The Chair stated that there would be continual assurance from ARMC in the Internal Audit process.

The Board was content to approve the position in relation to HSENI’s tendering exercise for a new IA provider.

Corporate Plan Launch

Mr Burns invited the Board to agree how the HSENI Corporate Plan should be launched.

Mr Burns provided background on the HSENI corporate plan 2023-2028 (CP). The CP has been approved by the HSENI Board and the DfE Minister (before he left office). Operationally the CP is live from 1 April 2023.

HSENI officials have completed a number of public speaking events to promote the CP. HSENI staff were briefed at the recent event in the La Mon hotel.

The CP now needs to be officially launched. The options are:

  1. Soft launch by placing it on the HSENI website
  2. Soft launch by placing it on the HSENI website and an accompanying press launch
  3. A full launch with a photo opportunity and possible media interviews with Chair and CEO

SMT considered this matter at its April meeting. Whilst this is a decision for the board, SMT recommend option 1. This is because of the current political situation where we do not have a Minister or an Executive. If a new Minister was to be appointed they may be interested in a positive news story and photo opportunity which we could facilitate. Also, we may not get the coverage we would seek as we approach the local elections. Finally, SMT is of the opinion that the document has been well profiled through public speaking events.

The Board was content to endorse recommendation 1 (above) put forward in relation to the launch of HSENI’s corporate plan 2023-28.

2022/2023 List of Board Decisions

The Board noted the list of Board decisions made during 2022/2023.

12. Annual Review Committee

The Board noted the minutes from the Annual Review Committee meeting on 5 April 2023.

13. Any Other Business (AOB)

Mr Jack stated he found it very useful attending the meeting and participating in the discussions carried out at Board meetings.

Mr McDowell thank Dr Monson for facilitating a site visit to a large food manufacturer with HSENI Inspector, Mr Lowe.  Mr McDowell is very impressed with how Mr Lowe conducts inspections.

Mr Strong stated he had recently been on three farm visits with Ms Wallace and was very impressed with how professional Ms Wallace was during the visits. Mr Strong highly recommends Board members to go on site visits.

The Chair thanked all for attending.

14. Date of next Board Meeting

The next Board meeting will be held on Thursday 22 June 2023 at 12.00pm.

The meeting ended at 11:55am

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