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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) board has agreed to restore limited public access to its decision-making by opening up half its meetings in 2017 to outside observers. At its 7 December meeting, the board agreed a proposal to hold four open meetings in 2017. A paper presented to the board suggested the increase to restore the "openness and transparency" of the group's decisions on the executive's policies.
In 2016 the number of open meetings was cut to two. The board paper said the restriction was "largely due to less policy-related issues being raised for the board's consideration and the need to structure inductions for new board members around the meetings". Three new members joined in 2016.
The board, formerly the Health and Safety Commission, is made up of appointees representing employers, workers and government. The majority of the monthly meetings were open to observers each year between 2003 and 2015.
The decision to restore access to some sessions follows criticism by former HSE chief executive Geoffrey Podger, who told IOSH Magazine in September that the board was "hiding" in closed session.
The paper said the HSE had reviewed the openness of seven governmental arm's length bodies' meetings and found that three held between four and ten open meetings annually. The remaining four did not hold open meetings but published agendas, minutes and papers online and two posted video recordings of their meetings.
At the December meeting HSE chair Martin Temple endorsed a comment by board member and TUC head of organisation and services Kevin Rowan that the board should adopt a "presumption of openness" in its functions where possible.
The board accepted the paper's proposal that it should hold four "mostly open" meetings in 2017 with a limited number of outside observers who register in advance. Its remaining four meetings will be closed.
The open meetings will be combined with "stakeholder events" at which invited attendees will receive presentations from HSE staff. The detail of these events has yet to be decided. HSE chief legal adviser Peter McNaught, who presented the paper, said the executive will consider making video recordings of board meetings available online in future.
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