Minutes of the Senior Management Team (SMT) meeting held on Wednesday 6 January 2021 at 12:00 noon (via zoom)
- R Kidd Chief Executive (Chair)
- L Burns Deputy Chief Executive
- N Monson Deputy Chief Executive
- B Monson Deputy Chief Executive
- K Neeson Acting Deputy Chief Executive (left before discussion on filling the fourth Deputy Chief Executive post)
There were no apologies.
2. Minutes from the previous meeting
The minutes from the 2 December meeting were agreed.
3. Action Points
There were no action points not covered by the agenda.
4. Corporate Health, Safety and Welfare
SMT discussed the new strain of Coronavirus (Covid-19) with its increased transmissibility. This was also considered in terms of the current lockdown messaging where people have been asked to stay at home where possible. It was agreed that Inspectorate staff would only be deployed for serious incidents and fatalities. The operating procedures will be checked and updated accordingly. Heads of Group (HoGs) will be asked to check if the list of those shielding or considered to be vulnerable has changed for any reason. It was agreed that at this time, witness statements would continue to be carried out at the office at Ladas Drive as significant risk mitigation measures are already in place.
5. Audit, Risk Management and Finance
- EU funding bid from Treasury has been verbally confirmed by the Department
- Memorandums of Understandings and Agency agreements are being put in place as required
- The filling of vacant posts are being pursued with HR Connect and SMT are directing which posts need to be taken forward as a priority.
- Need to commence appointing EU staffing team and getting them trained and up to speed - Format is a G6, 2 Grade 7 (equivalent), 5 Chemicals staff, 4 Product safety staff and an EO2 admin.
- We still have no confirmation in the baseline shortage for the 2021/22 year
- The demands of Covid work interlaced with lockdown requirements impact on our ability to carry out all site visits.
SMT discussed a number of posts including –
- 2 Principal Professional Technical Officer posts which are now being discussed with HR Connect but which will require to be subject to the JEGS process.
- 2 Deputy Principal posts in Legislation. There is a significant urgency as one post will be vacated through retirement before Easter. We are awaiting approval from Department for Infrastructure to take from a list which they currently have for legislation Deputy Principals.
- Highe Scentific Officer – The funding and headcount form was submitted to HR Connect in October before their cut-off date but appeared to get lost in their system. It also appears there was an unofficial embargo on moving to fill posts. This has been resurrected by the Head of Group.
- Audio Typist – A replacement for our retiring audio typist had been identified but this individual has now declined the post on the grounds of concerns due to Covid. A further person has now been identified and HR Connect are making the relevant enquiries. We may need to make this a full time post to secure a long term candidate.
- Agency Investigator staff – This is still being followed up with the hope that we will be able to run a 4-6 pilot before the end of March 2021.
- 2 General Compliance Officers – one took up post in November and the second is due to start next week (This individual had a longer notice period to work). SMT are now looking at the possibility of taking a third person off this list to fill the compliance officer post in Construction.
- Trainee Inspectors – An issue has been identified that HSE appear to have prioritised their own staff over all external candidates and Denise is raising this with her counterpart to ensure that our trainees are not delayed on their online face to face learning.
SMT are also moving ahead with proposals as to how we might pilot an alternative recruitment and training regime for trainee inspectors. The Chief Executive (CEO) will write to HSE GB's chief executive to set out our proposals and to ensure that this would not preclude us from using the HSE training route in the future. We will also need to consult with Trade Union side and then get detailed costings from the local providers.
One of our business advisers has raised the question of partial retirement. SMT discussed some possible options to explore which would not result in the group losing resource. This will be followed up.
7. Case and Project Work
- Major Investigation Team (MIT) update – N Monson shared the statistics on the number of cases currently with MIT (22). There was some discussion on a number of current cases.
- EU Exit/transition period – This was covered along with the staffing discussion in this area.
8. Business Planning
It was noted that funding may hit our programme budget. Head of Groups have already been advised to consider this as well as the likely continuance of Covid impacts on our delivery targets at least for Quarter 1 and Quarter 2. SMT also discussed the possibility of shortening the annual report following comments made by the Board.
It was noted that a building risk assessment was carried out in conjunction with Trade Union side just before Christmas. No significant issues were raised and it was agreed that things will be kept under review and screens etc will not be purchased as it is unlikely we would be populating the building in significant numbers until the challenge of Covid has passed which would make such mitigations unnecessary
9. Performance Monitoring
B Monson updated SMT on reporting of clusters by the Public Health Agency and the demands they bring. It was noted these are occurring in a number of work areas. The Chair thanked B Monson for his work in particular leading a team in a large multi-site visit just before Christmas after a number of concerns came to light.
10. Board Business
The Chair agreed to follow up on comments sent to the Department on the partnership agreement as this would be helpful to bring to the board at the end of January for sign off.
11. Any other business
- SMT discussed the future of the office at Ladas Drive in terms of how it might look post pandemic. It was agreed that an occupancy survey would be carried out to see what options there are for creating additional staff spaces for the EU team as well as considering options for more meeting spaces and “hot desking” facilities if staff were to move away from being at their desks Monday to Friday. It was agreed we would check what the NICS estates are doing as well as looking at possible meeting venues in partner organisations such as Trading Standards Service and Netherleigh.
- N Monson highlighted the involvement of HSENI in the Department for Work and Pensions meeting – Health is everyone’s business (21/12). She outlined some of the potential impacts for both HSENI, Department for Communities and Northern Ireland employment law in general.
AT THIS POINT K NEESON WAS EXCUSED FROM THE MEETING
- SMT discussed the issue of the fourth Deputy Chief Executive (DCE) post and how it might be shaped to help balance out the workload on the existing DCEs. The Chair said he would follow up with the Department to seek written confirmation on their approval to appoint the DCE and the two PPTOs. There was also some discussion on the makeup of panels for the interviews of the candidates for these posts and it was agreed that it was too early to determine if these would be face-to-face or online interviews.
12. Date of next meeting
The date of the next meeting is planned 3 February 2021.
The meeting concluded at 4pm.