The consultation examines the influence new technologies can have on the industries HSE regulates. It says research is under way to reveal how “mature technologies”, such as robotics and remotely controlled work equipment in factories, which have been implemented in other sectors, can be successfully applied to agriculture.
The regulator cites its development of a breath test that assesses the harm of breathing in silica, and exploration of implications of energy storage, major tunnelling infrastructure and advanced manufacturing in shared research programmes, co-funded by industry.
Projects such as these are helping analyse emerging opportunities and risks. The plan says these ongoing science programmes will “build networks between science, policy and legislative processes”, enabling it to “check that the regulatory framework is proportionate and not a barrier to growth”.
The document says the HSE can, in limited circumstances, grant certificates exempting parties from regulatory demands, where the concession does not compromise health and safety and encourages business growth.
It gives the example of an exemption allowing gas network operator SGN to distribute gas that does not comply with specifications under the Gas Safety (Management) Regulations. During a 12-month trial period it will evaluate whether this gas increases risk to consumers, such as carbon monoxide production. “If the trial proves successful,” says HSE, “there are potentially very large savings to the industry and ultimately to gas consumers”.
Though reminding stakeholders that its “primary function is to secure the health, safety and welfare of people at work in Great Britain”, the HSE says it is deploying technology in a cost-effective way.
One example is laser scanning for investigations, which uses rotating lasers to capture millions of data points, generating a dimensionally accurate picture of a scene in a few hours.
The HSE is required to produce the Innovation Plan - along with all government departments - under the Treasury’s Productivity Plan, by March 2016. It asks respondents to the consultation for general feedback on the innovation draft but also to comment on what more it could do to adapt to new technology and business innovation.
It notes that the UK’s goal-setting rather than prescriptive regulatory approach “gives dutyholders the freedom and incentive to meet regulatory requirements in the most cost-effective way possible, applying new or existing technologies to control risk in ways that maximise their productivity.
The consultation document (CD279) can be found here. The consultation period closes on 31 January and responses can be submitted using the online questionnaire.