HSE Scrap Their Helpline – Infoline
The HSE Infoline telephone information service will end on 30 September 2011
In the view of the Executive “businesses or members of the public seeking information on health and safety can now use the HSE’s website and changes to the basic telephone information service are in line with public sector –wide drive to deliver services more efficiently ”Changes to incident reporting and the closure of Infoline are expected to save the HSE ?7 million over five years. Leading Health & Safety commentators including Xact have raised a number of issues.
The Implications of Closure
Who will answer enquiries after Infoline closes? According to the HSE: “People will not be able to ring up for information. If they do, they will be referred to the HSE website or asked to call another helpline or consultancy number”. The HSE will not answer enquiries by phone, letter, fax or e-mail; enquirers will be told to look at the website. So, is the HSE abdicating responsibility for providing help, guidance and advice?The decision to close Infoline without any compatible alternative comes hot on the heels of the HSE’s decision to stop proactive inspections in the majority of sectors, and demonstrates an about – turn in its policy of engagement and partnership in support of a prevention culture. Much of the advice, guidance and good practice assembled by the HSE over many years derives from answering enquiries and from its proactive engagement with stakeholders.
Is the HSE moving rapidly into a ‘silo of secrecy’ and slipping towards anonymity? Telephone numbers of local HSE offices have been removed from the HSE website, and may be removed from telephone directories too, leaving employers and workers in urgent need of assistance only able to contact their local office by fax or letter. And, of course, in the reply they will be told to look at the website!There is a lack of openness and no engagement, and the move to ‘virtual information’, with no check and balances, is a worrying trend.No proactive inspection effectively means no practical advice and guidance because there will be fewer opportunities to learn from inspection activity, engagement with duty – holders, enquiry handling, and from frequently asked questions, all of which combine to build a knowledge base not only for the HSE but also for the wider health and safety community.There is now clearly a gap in the provision of this proactive advice to businesses especially SME’s.
For more information and analysis on this contact the Xact Health and Safety team on 0845 665 3006.