HSENI Board meeting minutes - 27 July 2023

Minutes of the 127th meeting of the Board of the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland held on Thursday 27 July 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
  • Mr T Wright
  • Mr S McDowell
  • Mrs S Rooney
  • Mrs C Irwin (remotely)
  • Mr G Strong
  • Mr A Cooke

HSENI Officials:

  • Mr R Kidd - Chief Executive
  • Dr B Monson - Deputy Chief Executive
  • Mrs N Monson - Deputy Chief Executive
  • Mr K Neeson - Deputy Chief Executive
  • Mr M Ditchfield - HSENI
  • Ms L Nelson - Secretary

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting.

1. Apologies

Mr L Burns and Dr P Hart.

2. Corporate health, safety and welfare

Nothing to report.

3. Declaration of Conflict of Interest(s)

Mr A Cooke reported a conflict of interest to the Board in relation to an ongoing investigation between his current employer, Graham Construction Ltd, and HSENI. Mr Cooke left the meeting at this point.

4. Minutes

The minutes of the Board meeting held on 27 April 2023 and the extraordinary Board meeting held on 22 June 2023 were circulated to Board members prior to the meeting. The minutes were approved and adopted.

Mrs Rooney asked how much the final cost for the Internal Audit Contract was, which was approved at the 27 April Board meeting. Mr Ditchfield to confirm the figure with Board members. (See Finance Report).

5. Matters arising

It was noted that there were no outstanding actions from the April and June Board meetings.

6. Audit and Risk Management Committee Report

The ARMC Chair highlighted the following as having been discussed at the ARMC meeting on 22 June 2023:

Annual Report and Accounts (ARA)

The ARMC committee approved the ARA to be presented to the Board meeting following the ARMC meeting on 22 June for signing by the Accounting Officer and the Chair. The ARMC Chair stated that the ARA was a testament of the hard work of those involved to get it approved for early closing. The ARMC Chair confirmed that the ARA has been laid with the Assembly and the audit received an unqualified opinion.

ARMC Annual Report to the Board

The ARMC Chair expressed thanks and credit to Mrs Mullan for producing the ARMC Annual Report to the Board. He stated that the report provides Board members of the activities carried out throughout the year by the ARMC Committee. The report provides assurance to Board members of the internal systems of control within HSENI. The ARMC Chair reported that all ARMC members contributed well to the meetings and that there is a good relationship with the internal and external auditors.

Mr Sinclair commended the work of the ARMC Committee and thanked the ARMC for their work throughout the year. The Chair endorsed Mr Sinclair’s comment.

7. Chief Executive’s Report​​​​​

The Chief Executive highlighted the following key points:

  • the format of the report has been amended to reflect the Key Performance Indicator’s (KPIs) agreed in the new Corporate Plan to reflect actual figures, predicted figures and cumulative figures
  • no confirmed budget letter has been received. HSENI is still working on the basis of a draft budget. As a result of this, discretionary spend was suspended during April and May
  • The formal launches of the Workplace Transport Campaign and the Farm Safety Campaign will take place in September

Mr McDowell thanked the Chief Executive for the update on the Chief Executive’s report and inquired why the inspection figure was down this year compared to the same quarter from last year. Dr Monson reported that in Q1 2023/24, planning has been taking place for the Workplace Transport Campaign along with school visits. Last year the Welding Initiative took place in Q4 (2021/22) and was carried into Q1 (2022/23). He also stated that the trainee inspectors have been involved in the last module of their training during Q1 and impacted on their availability to carry out inspections. Dr Monson assured the Board that SMT has no concerns in relation to reaching inspection targets.

A discussion took place relating to one of the prosecutions which took place in the previous quarter. The matter related to the age at which young people can drive a tractor on a farm and the other conditions around it.

Dr Monson stated that the Farm Safety Partnership and Young Farmers Clubs are promoting the need for training on farm machinery. It is difficult to obtain the training due to a lack of trainers. Tractor training courses are available at the CAFRE Enniskillen and Greenmount campuses. The Agri-Food group will follow up on training of young people on farms during the Workplace Transport Campaign. Mr Strong asked if HSENI could deliver the training but was advised as a Regulator it is inappropriate and outside HSENI’s remit for HSENI to deliver training.

Mr Wright stated that it is a difficult issue and HSENI can only monitor the situation when they know children are operating the machinery. He asked if the issue could be highlighted during the launch of the Workplace Transport campaign. Dr Monson reported that the press release for the campaign does not specifically address tractors but focuses on quad bikes and telehandlers. The issue in relation to young people operating tractors is covered on all school visits and is a module in the Agriculture and Land Use GCSE. All placement students must carry out a tractor training course. Dr Monson stated that in the past HSENI conducted radio interviews in relation to young people on tractors and will hope to do this again. Mr Sinclair stated the opportunity has been missed for the summer season and suggested that after Easter next year would be a good time for a press release to be released on this subject.

The Chief Executive added that inspections are primarily carried out during school hours and that tractor safety is a parental responsibility. HSENI works to promote tractor safety through the Farm Safety Partnership and Young Farmers Clubs as well as utilising social media. The Chair stated that the Workplace Transport campaign was the opportunity to address the issue. 

Mr Wright stated that he considered the most powerful campaign to date was the Falls from Height. The Chief Executive agreed, stating that the message needs to be stark and shocking. Dr Monson reported on a survivor story used by HSENI as detailed below:

Wallace Gregg, former President of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU), relates how his eight year old son was injured in an accident.  Wallace’s story highlights the dangers to children on farms:

Mr Sinclair stated that it is important to focus on ensuring young people are kept safe on farms, especially when operating vehicles and machinery, as it will always be an issue. Mrs Monson reported that the above incident was taken through to prosecution and highlighted one of the many issues in farm safety. HSENI cannot target everything and needs to prioritise when carrying out inspections.

The Chair asked for the Board’s concern about this issue be noted in relation to under age/ untrained/ unsupervised children operating farm machinery.

Mrs Rooney expressed concern at the high percentage of sickness of staff in the year in Annex E, HR Report, as this could cause staff burnout. She asked if this can be broken down into short term and long term. The Chief Executive reported that DoF are working on a new reporting module for sickness. A discussion took place and the Chief Executive assured the Board that SMT has no concerns in relation to sickness absence. 

The Chief Executive reported that HSENI had received the initial report from the NICS staff survey and HSENI achieved the highest response rate and the highest staff engagement index. The full results will be shared with the Board once they are received.

Mrs Rooney stated that vacancies could impact on existing staff. The Chief Executive reported that SMT had a meeting later today (27 July) with HR Connect to discuss the first of several planned competitions to fill staff vacancies.

8. Finance Report

Mr Ditchfield confirmed cost of the Internal Audit Contract previously asked by Mrs Rooney under Item 4 - Minutes. The internal Audit contract has been awarded for three years with an option to extend one + one years. The three year contract is £56,160 and a total of £93,600 with the two yearly extensions.

Mr Ditchfield reported that HSENI has not received a final budget letter and is working on the basis of a draft budget. HSENI has been informed to expect a £100,000 cut in the budget.

Mr Ditchfield highlighted the following points:

  • core resource opening budget from 22/23 and 23/24 detailing the £100k less in this financial year
  • overview of forecast and capital budget - forecasting to stay within 1% budget tolerance (0.9%)
  • to date no request from DoF/DfE for monitoring rounds or internal reallocations

Mr McDowell asked what the spend to date was in the programme budget.  Mr Ditchfield confirmed at the end of Q1, 30 June 2023, the spend was £37k, 4.6% of the total draft budget. It was also noted that the bulk of HSENI’s programme spend occurs in Q3 and Q4 and is monitored throughout the year.

The Chair stated that the Finance board report previously included a table showing actual spend cumulatively per quarter in percentage terms, against budget. Going forward, the Chair requested that this table is re-instated into the Board Finance report.

Mr Wright provided assurance that the matter of amortisation has been adopted after liaison with NIAO. The recommendation has been closed on the RRTCWG.

Action point: Mr Ditchfield to include a table on the Board Finance Report to show actual spend cumulatively per quarter in percentage terms, against budget.

9. Legislation Report

The Chief Executive highlighted the four consultations, three sets of Northern Ireland Domestic Regulations and three sets of EU Exit Regulations on the Legislation Board report, stating that there has not been much change since the last report as the making of legislation is driven by Politics. The Chief Executive provided assurance that the Legislation team continues to work closely with the Department and colleagues in GB.  There is a concern over divergence from GB and this is being monitored.

10. Any Other Business (AOB)

Note of Board Closed Session on 22 June 2023

The Board noted the record of the closed session and approved it.

Management Responses to actions from the Board Closed Session on 22 June 2023

All Management Responses were noted and agreed.

The Chief Executive suggested sending a copy of the Board Effectiveness review and a copy of the note of the closed session to HSENI’s Partnership Team. The Chair agreed that this should be done.

Action point: Board Effectiveness Review and Note of the Board Closed Session to be forwarded to Colin Jack, DfE.

Partnership Agreement

The Chief Executive provided an update on the background and timeline of the Partnership Agreement. The Agreement will be reviewed every three years, with the next review due in 2026.

The Board noted the DfE Partnership Agreement.

Board Annual Timetable

The Board noted the annual timetable.

Discussion on an Annual Report Workshop 2023

The Chief Executive stated that HSENI is happy to facilitate a workshop to discuss the Annual Report, however he reported that there is not a lot can be changed as the financial information is based on a template from the annual Financial Reporting Manual and must adhere to this.

Mr Wright stated that even though the format and content cannot be changed much, the workshop would add a level of awareness and ownership to the Board and feels that the Board would benefit from the discussion. Mr Wright stated it would be helpful to ask Board Members what their objectives are for the Workshop. The Chair agreed that the workshop will ensure that the Board considers it has ownership of the document and asked for dates to be circulated to Board members.

Agenda to be agreed and details of particular items/suggestions provided ahead of the workshop.

Action point: Ms Nelson to circulate dates in September to arrange a Board workshop to discuss the Annual Report.

The Chair provided an update on Board extensions. The Secretary of State has decided not to extend Mr Wright and Mr Sinclair’s terms as Board members. As a result, they will leave the HSENI Board on 31 October 2023.  The Board will then run with the Chair and six Board members. The Chair’s term will be extended to allow the Board to be quorate although this has yet to be confirmed.

The Chair reported that Mr David Malcolm from the Department will attend the October Board meeting.

The Chair thanked all for attending.

11. Date of next Board Meeting

Thursday 26 October 2023 at 10.00am.

Pre-meeting for Board members at 9.30am.

Board closed at 11:50am

Board Minutes adopted and approved and signed by Derek Martin, HSENI Clairman on 26 October 2023.