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Science at The Heart of Health and Safety

 May 2016

At the heart of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) there is a breadth of experience and extensive expertise in science and engineering that is working to help predict the safety and health challenges of the future.

Science at the heart of Health and SafetyThe HSE’s Health and Safety Laboratory in Derbyshire, UK, has hosted a number of important visitors this year and the value of its science expertise has been recognised externally, with staff being presented with various awards and honours.

At HSE’s headquarters in Bootle, Liverpool together with its laboratory in Buxton, there are over 850 science experts, including psychologists, microbiologists and explosive specialists that are researching and testing innovative ways to make our workplaces safer and healthier.

The valuable work the HSE delivers, provides the evidence to underpin its internal operational decisions and the development of policy and enforcement action. It also provides other government departments, industry and overseas clients with evidence-based solutions which help them to address their health and safety challenges.

In the latest Annual Science Review, published by the HSE this earlier this month, various case studies reveal how Science takes centre stage in:

  • Enabling innovation - supporting its work as an enabling regulator and helping the growth of business nationally and globally.
  • Cutting edge evidence - its research provides intelligence to inform decision making by HSE and our external stakeholders and customers.
  • Securing justice - where specialist support has led to successful prosecutions.
  • Learning lessons - research following particular incidents is helping stakeholders improve health and safety in their industries.
  • Developing practical guidance - science is being used to develop and deliver practical guidance and information for employers.
  • Supporting interventions - research is supporting regulatory excellence including through behavioural change.
  • Knowledge transfer - research knowledge and expertise has been transferred to external stakeholders as support in improving occupational health and safety - the HSE produces over 100 publications each year.

The work of the HSE has a positive impact, not only in enabling it to help Great Britain work well, but also in leading the way in anticipating and tackling health and safety challenges around the world.

The annual science review showcases a number of examples of the year’s research and how it will benefit workers, businesses and stakeholders.

Chief scientific adviser and director of research, Professor Andrew Curran, said:

“HSE is a strongly scientific and evidence based organisation. Tragically 142 people lost their lives at work in 2014/15; our focus is to understand the root cause of these incidents. Our forensic approach helps us to secure justice, our experts testify in court every week.

By learning from the past we hope to be able to support the present by transferring knowledge to others in the health and safety system and protect the future by better understanding the risks and challenges that social, economic and technical changes could bring.”

The Science Review can be read in full on the HSE website.

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