Review of the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland

Mr Kieran Donnelly, the Comptroller and Auditor General, has reported today on his review of the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI), the regional authority for workplace health and safety.


HSENI is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI). It operates under a legislative remit in providing health and safety information and advice; promoting best practice in the workplace; enforcing compliance with statutory provisions and preparing new legislation. District councils also have responsibility for the promotion and enforcement of health and safety law in certain workplaces.

The report examines HSENI’s operations during the 10-year period between its formation and March 2009, focusing on its strategic approach; its proactive and reactive work; progress with health and safety-related targets and reducing the cost to the economy.

Main Findings

  • there is a well established performance management regime based on a limited range of information sources;
  • while HSENI has successfully delivered target-driven initiatives on farm safety and construction, it needs to set targets in other areas;
  • the level of workplace fatalities in Northern Ireland is relatively higher compared to Great Britain;
  • communication of important health and safety messages is well received by stakeholders and the public, although there is scope for improvement;
  • there is a lack of clarity amongst employers on the roles and responsibilities of HSENI and district councils with regard to incident reporting;

Main Recommendations

Performance Management

  • HSENI should utilise as broad a range of information as possible to generate intelligence on the occurrence of work-related injury and ill health incidents;
  • HSENI needs to set specific health and safety compliance targets which can be clearly understood by its stakeholders;


  • HSENI should review the research conducted elsewhere on fatal injury incident rates to inform its own deliberations in this area.


  • HSENI’s communication of key health and safety messages could be improved through more locally-held seminars and the issue of updates on current issues.

Joint Working with Councils

  • HSENI should establish a single point where employers can report all work related injuries;
  • HSENI should liaise more with district councils to promote joint working opportunities.

Cost to the Economy

  • HSENI should work with DETI to review and update the cost to the economy of work-related injury, ill health and non-injury accidents.