When the Health and Safety Executive was set up, almost forty years ago, it was considered important that it had the confidence of both employers and employees and rightly so. For that reason the Health and Safety Commission was set up to agree any new regulations. There were three worker representatives (proposed by the TUC), three employers representatives (proposed by employers’ groups) and up to three others. No decision could be made without the support of both employers and employee representatives. This meant that any changes to health and safety law were seen to have come about by consensus, achieved through a common purpose of improving health and safety in the workplace.
This system has survived almost intact, although there have been some changes. When the Commission was replaced with a Board the membership was expanded from a maximum of 9 to 11, although the three worker and three employer representatives remained. Also in recent years decisions have been made which did not have the support of both sides of industry, such as the decision to exempt some self-employed people from health and safety laws.