Minutes of the HSENI Board Meeting - October 2021

Minute of the 118th meeting of the Board of the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland held on Thursday 28 October 2021 in the La Mon House Hotel at 9:30AM


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
  • Mr B Monson - Deputy Chief Executive
  • Mrs N Monson - Deputy Chief Executive
  • Mr K Neeson - Deputy Chief Executive
  • Mr Michael Ditchfield - HSENI
  • Mr Paul Hughes - HSENI
  • Ms L Nelson - Minutes

The Chair welcomed everyone to the 118th meeting of the HSENI Board.
Mr Ditchfield and Mr Hughes introduced themselves to the Board.
The Chair congratulated Mr Neeson on his recent appointment to Deputy
Chief Executive.

1. Apologies

Mr L Burns – Deputy Chief Executive

2. Corporate Health, Safety and Welfare

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

3. Declaration of Conflict of Interest(s)

None to report.

4. Minutes from previous meeting

The minutes of the Board meeting held on 29 July 2021 were circulated to Board members prior to the meeting.

Dr Hart queried how the Chief Executive recorded an amendment in relation to the draft Operating Plan on the July minutes. The Chief Executive agreed to remove the correction from the July minutes.

Once the above amendment has been removed, the July minutes can be approved and adopted. An addendum to correct the information has been added under Any Othe Business of these minutes.

ACTION: Chief Executive to remove correction on July minutes.

5.  Matters Arising

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

6. HSENI Annual Report and Accounts 2020 – 2021

The Chief Executive gave a brief overview of the Annual Report, highlighting the key facts and figures.  He stated that it was a very positive report, providing an accurate summary of work carried out throughout a difficult year of business.  It was a challenging year reflecting HSENI’s staff flexibility and their ability to continue to meet targets. 

The Chief Executive reported that a few minor queries had been received from the Audit Office at a late stage.  These have all been followed up.

Mr Ditchfield provided an overview on why the signing of the accounts had to be delayed until later in the year as the intention was to have them signed in June.  He explained that this was due to HSENI’s Accountant having to go off on maternity leave earlier than planned. 

Mr Ditchfield and Mr Hughes updated the Board on a query received from the Northern Ireland Audit Office in relation to Grant in Aid. The financial reporting model states that Grant in Aid has to be reported on a cash basis.  HSENI is waiting on the Audit office sending advice to explain how this should be included.  The Chief Executive recommended the signing off the Accounts as they were 99.9% completed.  The Chair asked if the final Report to Those Charged with Governance (RTTCWG) had now been issued.  Mr Ditchfield explained that the final RTTCWG would issue after the accounts have been signed.

The Chair requested that the signing off of the accounts be completed after the revised Annual Report and Accounts has been issued.  He asked all Board Members to approve by email once they receive the final document.

7. Report to Those Charged With Governance

The Chief Executive reported that the draft Report to Those Charged with Governance provided assurance that the audit of HSENI’s Annual Report and Accounts identified nothing of great concern and that there were no uncorrected misstatements for the Committee to consider.  PwC had confirmed that it was a very clean audit with no financial statement adjustments. No significant risks were identified during the audit.

Mr McDowell asked on Page 6 of the document, under the heading ‘Financial Statement Disclosures’, if this is what Mr Ditchfield was referring to in relation to Grant in Aid.  Mr Ditchfield confirmed it was not as the Grant In Aid query had come late in the day.  This was in relation to a Pension update on the Remuneration Report.

8. Audit and Risk Management Committee (ARMC) Report

The ARMC met on 21 October 2021.  The following areas were highlighted by the ARMC Chair as having been discussed at the latest ARMC meeting:

  • Draft Minutes – reflect a productive and assuring meeting.
  • Matters arising and action points discussed. The Chair highlighted the action on the risk register focusing on CR5 - staff welfare.  ARMC members are content to note the mechanisms put in place by SMT.
  • Internal Audit update by Mr Lindsey.  Procurement audit has been completed and received a ‘Satisfactory’ assurance rating with one priority 3 recommendation in relation to Economic Appraisals.  The Case Management System audit has been completed and received a ‘Satisfactory’ assurance rating with no recommendations. The ARMC Chair highlighted the high level of commitment and hard work of HSENI staff in facilitating the audits.
  • The ARMC Chair reported that the Grant In Aid query had not been made in relation to the Annual Report and Accounts at the time of the ARMC meeting.  The Chair confirmed that the Annual Report and Accounts was a true and accurate reflection of activities carried out and acknowledged the amount of work carried out by all involved in producing the document.
  • Report to Those Charged with Governance - the Chair highlighted that there were no audit recommendations and HSENI did adhere to the revised timetable.  PwC confirmed a clean audit with no irregular expenditure or misstatements.  The ARMC Committee recommended that the Chief Executive sign off on the accounts subject to the minor amendments being addressed.
  • The risk register, focusing on financial, business disruption and emerging risks along with the impact of COVID-19 on staff and work activities.
  • The Audit Recommendations Progress paper.   
  • Publications from the Department of Finance’s Accountability and Financial Management Division.

Mr Strong asked under Key Outcomes on Page 1 of the risk register ‘undertake 25,000 inspections … across all work sectors’ what the work sectors are.  Dr Monson reported that an explanation of all sectors was available on HSENI’s website.  It was agreed that an explanation of work sectors would be shared with Board members.

Dr Hart asked how HSENI arrived at the figure of 25,000 inspections.  The Chief Executive explained that this figure was taken from objectives drawn up over the 5 years of the Corporate Plan.  He stated that based on the last 18 months this was now a challenging target to achieve.  The Chief Executive reported that going forward, Heads of Groups have been asked to be realistic in setting targets, taking into consideration COVID-19 and staff pressures.  The Chair agreed, stating that at the start of the Corporate Plan the figure was based on achievable targets but the last year had restricted a lot of work.

Dr Hart stated that a number of inspections might not be the best way to measure an outcome.  Dr Monson reported that HSENI had looked at removing the inspection target on a previous Corporate Plan but was advised that the Minister and the public expect to see this target.  It was agreed to discuss this at the February workshop.

The Chair thanked Mr Wright and the Committee for the work carried out at the ARMC meetings.  The Chair thanked Mrs Mullan for compiling all the data and producing reports for ARMC. 

The Chair thanked Mr Ditchfield, Mr Hughes and the team for their work.

ACTION: Explanation of work sectors to be shared with Board Members.

9. Chief Executive’s Report

The following items were highlighted by the Chief Executive:

Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19)

A presentation was delivered to all staff to discuss proposals on a phased reoccupation of the building.  Approximately 85 staff attended the online session.  The proposal was developed through consultation with Trade Union Side (TUS) and the Workplace Wellbeing Steering Group.

It is hoped to provide workspace for the new trainees and the NI Protocol teams on Chemicals and Product Safety so that they can get to know each other.

There will also be provision for essential users requiring access to deal with premises issues, preparing files etc. and a room booking system is in operation.  Going forward the system will be kept under review.


Heads of Group (HoG) have been asked to begin consideration for the 2022/23 Operating Plan.  This will take account of ongoing staffing pressures. 

Operations/Assembly business

The Chief Executive informed the Board that there had been four assembly questions and 11 constituency correspondence cases during the period.

Finance and Governance

The Chief Executive reported that a three year budget settlement is a possibility.  The budget is likely to be challenging over the next three years.

Fatal accidents/injury rates

There have been seven work-related fatalities in 2021/22 compared to eight fatalities in the same period in 2020/21. The sectors involved are Agriculture (4), Public Sector (1) and Manufacturing (2). Dr Monson updated the Board on a further three fatalities that had occurred after post mortem results and official reports had been received.

Departmental Liaison/Strategic Leadership

The Chief Executive reported that HSENI’s SMT and the Chair attended an Oversight and Liaison meeting with the Department on 17 September 2021.

Mrs Irwin asked how the Operating Plan was produced.  The Chief Executive explained that HoG would look at available resources and discuss with SMT targets for the incoming year.  SMT will be emphasising to them to work within their available resource rather than trying to achieve what they did with a full staff complement.

Dr Hart commented that not all sections of the quarterly monitoring return (QMR) under common priorities and promotional activities had been updated for Q2 and that ‘ongoing’ as an explanation in progress did not provide enough information.  The Chief Executive explained that the HoG for the Agri-food sector is absent from work and as a result, Agri-food’s input had not been updated.  It was agreed that a memo should have been provided to the Board explaining this.

Mrs Irwin agreed with Dr Hart, stating that Board members do not understand the reports as there is not enough information provided.

The Chair agreed these were good points and that the QMR should provide a full explanation of ‘update on progress’ for all objectives.

The Chief Executive stated that the QMR was an operational document, adding that it was a checklist used by Deputy Chief Executive's to provide an insight into how work is progressing.

Mrs Rooney asked if it was a report by exception.  She stated that the Notifications input should show a % of notifications replied to. 

Mr Cooke said it was an opportunity to streamline the document and stated that the Red/Amber/Green status is irrelevant If the ‘update on progress’ is fully updated.

The Chief Executive said the comments were helpful. SMT will look at the document and the DCEs will speak to HOGs re populating updates on progress.

Mrs Monson said it was timely as we are into a new Operating Plan cycle. The February workshop will provide a good opportunity to find what information the Board would like to receive.

Mrs Irwin referred to Annex 2 of the Chief Executive’s Board report, ‘CMS Team Brief’, asking if there is a better way to look at trends.  Dr Monson stated that the trends are in the Annual Report and it is difficult to look at trends on an annual basis.  He also suggested using the February workshop to find out what information would be helpful for the Board to receive.

Mr Cooke asked if we could establish trends of good business from what has been downloaded and what has been visited on the website.  Dr Monson said that the website does not look at actual pages viewed but that downloads would be more valid.  Staff are trying to get better autonomy on the website.

ACTION: Review information to be presented at future board meetings at the February Board Workshop

10. HR Report

Mr Neeson updated the Board in relation to the HR Report and the following items were highlighted:

Sickness Absence:

91.8% of HSENI staff had no sickness absence throughout Q1, April – June 2021.  The number of working days lost per staff year equivalent is 2.4 days.  Mr Neeson assured the Board that SMT has no concerns in relation to sickness absence within HSENI.  Mrs Rooney commented that 8.2% of staff were on sick leave during the first quarter. She asked if there was a target.  The Chief Executive explained the sickness rate and stated that SMT had no issues or concerns with it.

Mr Wright agreed with the Chief Executive, stating that he is comfortable with the sickness percentage and the absence management policy in place.


Mr Neeson updated the Board on the vacancy management issue with NICS HR to fill vacancies.

Vacancies in Progress:

  • Higher Scientific Officer – HSENI Laboratory (HSO) – Q4 2021/22
  • 10 Health & Safety Inspectors – January 2022
  • Senior Scientific Officer – HSENI Laboratory (SSO) – Q4 2021/22

Recent Appointments:

  • DP Accountant (Finance) – 2 August 2021
  • SO Accountant (Finance) – 20 September 2021
  • Part-time Administrative Officer – (AO) – Operational Support Team – 27 September 2021

Other Vacancies:

  • Trainee Inspector competition - HSENI is progressing work on developing a training programme for Trainee Inspectors
  • Current Trainee Inspector cohorts – completion of training programme and consideration of temporary promotion.

Vacancies on Hold

  • Assistant Scientific Officer - Scientific Services.
  • AO - Complaints & Notifications.
  • Business Advisor (EO1) – Construction.

Staffing Matters – NI Protocol (NIP)

Vacancies in Progress

  • 2 DP/SPTO EU Chemicals (new post required for EU NIP).
  • 2 DP/SPTO EU Product Safety (new post required for EU NIP).
  • 2 EO1/PTO EU Chemicals (new post required for EU NIP).
  • 1 EO1/PTO EU Product Safety (new post required for EU NIP).
  • 1 x EO2 Admin support for EU Chemicals and EU Product Safety.

Recent Appointments

  • 2 PPTO (Grade 7) EU Exit (Chemicals & Product Safety) – July 2021.
  • DCE (Grade 6) Market Surveillance and Operations Division – October 2021.

Mrs Rooney asked if there were mitigations to cover the £120k shortfall for the proposed 2021 pay deal.  The Chief Executive reported that HSENI can place bids for this money in the monitoring rounds.  Mrs Rooney asked if it should be on the risk register. Mr Ditchfield explained that this is a recurring risk every year and is covered by in-year monitoring bids and doesn’t need to go on the risk register.

Mr McDowell thanked Mr Neeson for the update on HR, adding that 92 applicants for the Trainee Inspector vacancies was a credit to SMT for creating a desirable company.

11. Finance Report

Mr Ditchfield updated the Board on the Finance report.

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

  • Staff and operating expenditure to 14 October 2021
  • Bids approved via the October monitoring rounds;
  • Programme expenditure to 30 September 2021
  • Capital expenditure
  • Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP) expenditure
  • Profiling for the remainder of the year
  • Budget Tolerance
  • Current Position

The Chair thanked Mr Ditchfield for a very useful report.

Mr Wright echoed the Chair’s observations, stating that it was a very useful document showing a higher degree of insight of financial reporting and providing assurance that financial risks are identified.

12. Legislation Report

The Chief Executive reported there has been no movement regarding draft EU Exit Regulations listed below since the drafts were sent to the Department:

  • Draft Biocidal Products (Fees and Charges) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021.
  • Draft Equipment and Protective Systems Intended for Use in Potentially Explosive Atmospheres (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021.
  • Draft Chemicals (Health and Safety) and Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021.
  • The Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021.

The Chair asked for assurance that HSENI has done all it can in relation to moving legislation on. The Chief Executive provided assurance that HSENI has moved the documentation on as far as it can.

Mr Wright stated that the issue is highlighted in the risk register under CR7 – Implementation of Legislation and Statutory Regulations.

Dr Hart stated that the Board had now received the same report three times with small amendments each time.  She asked if the amendments could be highlighted on the document.  The Chief Executive suggested adding amendments to the document in red text.

The Board noted the remainder of the report.

ACTION: Amendments to the Legislation report to be placed in red text.

13. EU Exit

The Chief Executive updated the Board on EU Exit preparations, stating that the filling of staff vacancies was now underway but that the system to fill the vacancies had proved to be challenging.

The Chair asked what ability HSENI had to discharge its statutory duties. The Chief Executive reported that we do not yet know the exact demands/functions of the Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP).

14. Trainee Inspector Training

Mrs Monson updated the Board on the Trainee Inspector training programme.

Cohort A – 5 Inspectors – working towards the classic HSE GB Regulatory Diploma - Evidence has been gathered for competencies in the Professional Practice Competency Framework (PPCF) and has been added to the Train, Educate, Develop, Inspire (TEDI) system for review by the Operational Development Manager (ODM) for verification. 

The Unit 1 Legal Exam & Assessment was undertaken on 19 and 20 July and 24 and 25 August 2021 by four of the trainee inspectors.

All five trainee inspectors attended a Unit 2 Health and Safety tutorial for assignments on 8 and 9 September and the Unit 2 Health and Safety workshop for assignments on 20 and 24 September 2021.

Cohort F – 3 Inspectors – Evidence is being gathered to be used to demonstrate competencies in the new HSENI PPCF.  2 of the 3 inspectors commenced the Regulatory Training Programme (RTP) on 6 September 2021 and attended the Unit 1 Legal tutorial on 20 and 21 September 2021.  The third inspector has decided to defer their training and will commence with the new trainee inspector intake in January 2022.

Trainee Health and Safety Inspector posts have been advertised with a closing date of 15 October 2021.  The sift meeting will take place on Monday 1 November 2021. 

Mrs Monson thanked the Comms team and the inspectors involved in the inspector blogs placed on HSENI’s social media platforms in relation to the recruitment of trainee inspectors.

The latest intake of trainee inspectors will complete HSENI’s new system of training, a bespoke NEBOSH Diploma for HSENI, and make use of digital e-learning from HSE.  They will commence the Diploma training in March 2022 and legal training in June 2022.  Trainee Inspector training will be a priority on the Operating Plan for 2022/23.

The Chair thanked Mrs Monson for her work on the new training programme.

ACTION: Link to be forwarded to Board Members to enable them to view the Social Media videos made by various Inspectors to support the advertisement for the Trainee Inspector posts.

15. Any Othe Business (AOB)

Farm Safety Campaign – Board Approval

The Board was asked for approval of programme expenditure of £230,000 (including VAT) in 2021/22 on a multi-media farm safety campaign aimed at delivering behavioural change within the farming industry.

Mrs Irwin queried the cost going towards a mental health website, even though the aim was to deliver behavioural change.  Dr Monson explained that after speaking to farmers, a big issue identified was stress and mental health.  High levels of stress result in a high level of accidents.  Rural Support delivers ‘Coping with the Pressures of Farming’ workshops and identified stressors during these workshops.  They have produced a video and written content and HSENI will develop a questionnaire which will direct to the Rural Support video.  The focus on this is only one strand but it is critical to ensure the information is available.

The Chief Executive stated that the Rural Support website has very good information.

To Note: The Board agreed to approve the business case for programme spend of £230,000 in 2021/2022.

10x Strategy

The Chair highlighted the Department’s 10 x Strategy, an economic vision for a decade of innovation.  The concept embraces innovation to deliver a ten times better economy with benefits for all people.  The Chair encouraged all Board members to read the documentation and support the project.

The Chief Executive stated that as a Regulator it should be easy for HSENI to contribute to the Strategy.  At the DfE SMT meetings the Permanent Secretary has also encouraged all attendees to contribute.

Public Health Agency (PHA) Cluster Update

Dr Monson updated the Board on COVID-19 clusters. To date, PHA has notified HSENI of 425 clusters or outbreaks. During September 2021 there were 78 clusters, using PHA track and trace the vast majority of which were community based, although they also appeared in the workplace.  During October there were 51 cluster cases with 16 still under review.

Mr Wright stated it was nice to see and meet everyone face to face.

The Chair thanked all for attending.

Addendum to information provided on Item 13 of the July minutes

At the July meeting the Chief Executive advised the Board that the 2021-22 Operating Plan had been approved by the Minister. Following the meeting, the Chief Executive advised the Board that this was inaccurate and that the Plan was still in draft and had not yet received Ministerial approval. The previous Operating plan for 2020-21 had been revised to reflect the impact of COVID-19 and the changes it had imposed on our work activities. This revised plan was put to the then Minster, Diane Dodds, and there was a significant delay in getting this approved due to other demands on the Minister’s time. This revised plan was only approved close to the year end, when the new plan was being drafted, hence the confusion.

ACTION: Link to be forwarded to Board Members to access details of the Department’s 10X Strategy and also the Organisational Development and Transformational Project. (ODT).

16. Date of next Board Meeting

The next Board meeting will be held on Thursday 27 January 2022 at 9:30am.

The meeting ended at 1:25pm.

The Board Minutes adopted and approved by the HSENI Chairman Derek Martin on 27 January 2022.