Government not looking to commercialise safety policies

A Department of Work and Pensions spokesperson is reported to have downplayed claims that the Government is looking to privatise health and safety governance.

The comments, as described by The Independent, come amid concerns that the State is looking to commercialise the expertise of the Health and Safety Executive.

The DWP, which sponsors the HSE, is expected to officially back proposals next month which will further commercialise work at the Regulator’s Health and Safety Laboratory in Buxton.

Even so, the department insists full privatisation is not on the cards. “We have no plans to privatise the HSE or its laboratory, but are considering broadening the scope and increasing the pace of commercial work already done,” the DWP spokesperson said in rebuttal of the concerns.

Martin Temple, who is leading the Triennial Review of the HSE on behalf of the DWP, also ruled out full privatisation of the laboratory in his three-yearly review published in January.

But he acknowledged: “By developing a commercial arm, it will have the potential to seek joint ventures and collaborative work that will both increase its own commercial income and widen the opportunities for partnership with private sector providers, voluntary bodies and universities.”

Others, however, fear such definitive moves makes privatisation all but inevitable.

Unison’s health and safety head, Tracey Harding, stressed that the HSE plays a “vital” role in promoting and enforcing health and safety laws.

“It is not designed to be a money-making machine,” Ms Harding said in comments reported by The Independent.

The Health and Safety Laboratory provides technical support to HSE investigations.

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