Plan for insurers to take HSE role comes under fire

Engineering inspectors have attacked proposals for insurance companies to take over some of the work of the Health and Safety Executive.

Keith Jones, engineering director at Independent Inspectors, dismissed as `laughable’ the possibility of commercial insurance companies inspecting their clients’ premises instead of the HSE. Companies would be reluctant to risk upsetting, or possibly losing, their customers by alerting them to breaches of safety regulations, Jones claimed.

SAFed, the Safety Assessment Federation of engineering inspection and safety companies, which includes insurance companies among its members, made the suggestion as part of a consultation exercise with the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, which has overall control of the Health and Safety Executive.

An HSE spokesman has also raised concerns that the scheme would lead to a conflict of interests.

`Even if insurance companies conducted inspections of their clients’ sites in a quasi-legal capacity at the expense of the HSE, they would remain commercially linked to the company they were surveying,’ he said.

`I can understand why some people would be amused – or horrified – by the suggestion,’ he added.

Richard Morgan, technical director for SAFed, denied engineering surveyors would besoft on companies they were involved with financially. `These are professional people. If they were working under contract to the HSE to carry out site audits, they would be very capable of doing a thorough job,’ he said.

The government is expected to make a formal response to the consultation document, Revitalising Health and Safety, by late February.