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Our History Timeline

The HSE Science and Research Centre has roots stretching back over 100 years. In the early years safety research in coal mining was our sole business. Since then we have evolved considerably into a truly modern organisation that is not only internationally acclaimed for its depth and quality of scientific expertise, but also for the breath of disciplines it covers.

Explore our timeline to learn more about our history.

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World and HSE

  1. 1910s

  2. 1911

    Home Office Experimental Station created


    The Home Office Experimental Station is established at Eskmeals in Cumberland: the very first incarnation of the HSE Science and Research Centre. For the first time the Government is directly involved in mines safety research.

  3. 1914

    World War I

    World War I lasted from July 1914 to November 1918. Possibly one of the dealdliest conflicts in human history, it nevertheless catalysed many societal and technological changes, including in the world of work.

  4. 1916

    Bomb and gun range


    The Frith Artillery Range is set up to test trench mortars and other munitions during WW1. Shell fragments and other items continue to be found on the HSE SRC site.

  5. 1918

    1918 influenza pandemic

    Caused by the H1N1 influenza A virus and sometimes misleadingly called 'Spanish flu,' this pandemic leads to the death of 25-50 million people worldwide. By 1920, the virus that caused the pandemic had become much less deadly and caused only ordinary seasonal flu.

  6. 1920s

  7. 1927

    Official opening of Buxton site


    The site at Harpur Hill, Buxton is opened, taking over mine safety work from HOES Eskmeals.

    One of the reasons for choosing Harpur Hill was the requirement that the site "must not be near any working coal mine" so as not to alarm local residents when experimental explosions were undertaken. In fact, the nearby stone quarries meant that the local population was well used to the sound of explosions.


  8. 1928

    Sheffield laboratories open


    The Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, opens new mines safety laboratories in Portobello Street, Sheffield.

  9. 1928

    Penicillin discovered

    Alexander Fleming discovers the world's first broadly effective antibiotic substance, penicillin. For this discovery, he shared the 1945 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Howard Florey and Ernst Chain.

  10. 1930s

  11. 1931

    First international Safety in Mines Conference


    The first International Conference of Safety in Mines Research Institute is held in Buxton.

  12. 1937

    999 introduced in UK

    The 999 emergency phone number is introduced in central London. The scheme was extended to major cities after World War II but only achieved coverage of the whole of the UK in 1976.

  13. 1939

    Outbreak of World War II

    The Second World War lasted from 1939 to 1945. Like WWI, it also catalysed many societal and technological changes.

  14. 1940s

  15. 1944

    Pneumoconiosis laboratory opened


    A laboratory is set up in Sheffield to evaluate airborne dust samples taken from mines by inspectors concerned at increasing numbers of certified pneumoconiosis cases.

  16. 1947

    SMRE founded


    SMRB becomes part of the Ministry of Fuel and Power, which in turn results in the work at Sheffield and Buxton being brought together under the name 'Safety in Mines Research Establishment' (SMRE).

  17. 1948

    National Health Service launched

    The NHS, one of the first universal health care systems in the world, is launched with three core principles: That it meet the needs of everyone, that it be free at the point of delivery, and that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay.

  18. 1950s

  19. 1950

    Creswell Colliery fire


    A major fire at the Creswell Colliery leads to an increase in research efforts on fire hazards in mines. Fire research continues to be a major part of the work at HSE SRC.

  20. 1957

    Broad Lane laboratories open


    The need to improve accommodation in Sheffield beyond the potential of Portobello Street leads to the construction of new premises at Broad lane. The laboratories are officially opened by Lord Mills, the Minister of Power, on the 25th April 1957.

  21. 1957

    Sputnik 1

    The Soviets win the space race with the launch of Sputnik 1.

  22. 1959

    OML founded

    The Occupational Medical Laboratory (OML) is founded in central London.

  23. 1960s

  24. 1961

    First man in space

    The Sovite cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space.

  25. 1962

    Pellistor patented


    The development by Alan Baker at SMRE of the Pellistor marks a major breakthrough in the measurement of firedamp (methane). Instead of relying on the colour and shape changes of a safety lamp flame, this electronic device leads to the development of portable methanometers and other flammable gas detectors.

  26. 1964

    Surface gallery built

    A 1200ft long surface gallery (tunnel) is completed on the Buxton site. Seven feet high, the tunnel is built of reinforced concrete and laid on a bed sand to allow some movement in response to the explosion pressure.

  27. 1966

    OHL formed


    The Occupational Hygiene Laboratory (OHL) is formed.

  28. 1969

    First man on the Moon

    Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to set foot on the Moon.

  29. 1970s

  30. 1971

    SIMLIN prototype


    The prototype SIMLIN (Safety in Mines Scattered Light Instrument) is constructed. Airborne dust particles of respirable size can now be made visible on-site.

  31. 1972

    Air Stream Helmet


    The prototype dust helmet is invented at SMRE. A small fan and bag filter mounted inside the helmet filters the dusty air, passing a curtain of clean air over the wearer's face.

  32. 1974

    Flixborough disaster

    An explosion at a chemical plant close to the village of Flixborough kills 28 people and seriously injures 36. The disaster triggered a public outcry over process safety and, together with the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, led to a more systematic approach to process safety in the UK, now governed by the COMAH Regulations.

  33. 1975

    Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974


    HSE is created by the the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the bulk of which came into force on 1 January 1975. HSWA is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in Great Britain.

  34. 1980s

  35. 1984

    Asbestos (Licensing) Regulations


    The Asbestos (Licensing) Regulations 1983 come into law.

  36. 1985

    CIMAH Regulations


    The Control of Industrial Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1984 (CIMAH) come into force.

  37. 1987

    King's Cross fire


    At approximately 19:30 on 18 November 1987 a fire started under a wooden escalator at King's Cross St Pancras tube station and, at 19:45, flashed over into the ticket hall, killing 31 people and injuring 100.

    Computer modelling suggested that the fire had travelled parallel to the escalator rather than rising vertically. This was thought unlikely by experts at the time, so HSE scientists built a one-third model on the Buxton site and recreated the fire, which behaved as predicted and in line with eye-witness accounts, including the flashover. Later named the 'trench effect', this phenomenon was completely unknown before the fire.
    The King's Cross work was an early example of HSE SRC's rare ability to experimentally validate computer models.

  38. 1988

    Piper Alpha disaster

    A series of explosions destroys the Piper Alpha oil platform in the North Sea. In total, 167 people die in the world's worst offshore oil disaster.

    Lord Cullen's inquiry made 106 recommendations, including moving the responsibility for enforcing safety in the North Sea from the Department of Energy to HSE.

  39. 1989

    The Health and Safety Law Poster introduced


    The Health and Safety Information for Employees Regulations 1989, require employers to display HSE-approved information on what employees should expect. The HSE Law poster is now a common sight in workplaces across the UK.

  40. 1989

    Hillsborough disaster


    HSE scientists have supported the various investigations into the disaster at Hillsborough Stadium in which 97 people lost their lives.

  41. 1989



    The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1988 come into force on 1 October 1989, replacing a whole raft of previous legislation, much of it industry-specific.

  42. 1990s

  43. 1990

    HSE takes responsibility for rail safety


    Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate, responsible for railway safety regulation since 1840, moves from the Department of Transport to HSE.

    HSE introduced a new regulatory framework to manage the challenges to railway safety culture and risk management that took place during this period.

    HMRI moved again in 2006 to the then Office of Rail Regulation.

  44. 1990

    Labour Force Survey


    HSE starts to collect data on ill health and injuries through the Labour Force Survey. The LFS is the largest household study in the UK and covers the people's employment circumstance, including conditions which they think have been caused or made worse by their current or past work.

  45. 1991

    Offshore Safety Division established


    HSE'S Offshore Division is established at the recommendation of Lord Cullen's inquiry into the explosion on the Piper Alpha offshore platform in 1988.

  46. 1991

    First commercial lithium-ion battery

    The first commercial Li-ion battery is developed by a Sony and Asahi Kasei team led by Yoshio Nishi, building on a 1985 prototype developed by Akira Yoshino.

    The 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was given to Akira Yoshino, John Goodenough and Stanley Whittingham for the development of lithium ion batteries.

  47. 1991

    World Wide Web created

    Computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, working at CERN, releases his WWW software in early 1991. It includes a 'line-mode' browser, Web server software and a library for developers. In an August post to the Usenet group alt.hypertext he sets out the specifications for a worldwide, interconnected web of data, accessible to anyone from anywhere.

  48. 1995

    HSL created


    The Health and Safety Laboratory is created from HSE's RLSD as an agency of HSE, encouraging a more commercial, customer-contractor, way of working - including with HSE itself.

  49. 1996

    Digital storage cheaper than paper

    Digital storage becomes more cost effective than paper.



  50. 1996

    RIDDOR 1995 introduced


    The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 are introduced, consolidating a number of earlier regulations on the reporting of workplace accidents and diseases. Certain industries, such as mining and offshore working, had additional provisions placed on them.

  51. 1997

    Google Search debuts

    Google Search debuts this year - and for the next 20 years (at least) its name will become shorthand for searching the internet.

  52. 1998

    Breath sampler developed


    Scientists at HSL develop a breath sampler for capturing volatile organic compounds, important markers of a person's exposure to certain chemicals.

  53. 1998

    Gas Safety Regulations intoduced


    The Regulations impose a duty on employers to ensure that people carrying out work on gas installations have been approved by HSE.

  54. 1999

    COMAH introduced


    The Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 come into force on 1 October, replacing CIMAH.

    COMAH requires operators of sites handling hazardous materials to prepare major accident prevention policies and emergency plans to "prevent major accidents and limit their consequences for persons and the environment."

  55. 2000's

  56. 2000

    Hatfield rail disaster


    HSE investigates a metal fatigue-induced derailment that killed four people and injured more than 70. The serious nature of the problem leads to widespread disruption on the rail network as remedial work is carried out across the country.

  57. 2001

    Great Heck rail disaster


    HSE investigates when a InterCity 225 passenger train collides with a vehicle and trailer that has crashed onto the line from the M62 and is derailed into the path of an oncoming freight train. Ten people lost their lives, including the drivers of both trains, and 82 were seriously injured.

    The vehicle driver received a custodial sentence on multiple counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

    Great Heck remains the worst rail disaster of the 21st century in the United Kingdom.

  58. 2002

    SpaceX founded

    SpaceX, a private-sector company, is founded in California with the aim of decreasing the cost and improving the reliability of access to space.

  59. 2002

    Potter's Bar rail disaster


    HSE investigates when a northbound train, passing over a set of points, is derailed at high speed. Seven people died and 76 were injured. The principal cause of the accident was found to be poor track maintenance, which led to substantial public debate and a national change in policy relating to maintenance of rail infrastructure.

  60. 2003

    SARS outbreak

    WHO informed of an outbreak of SARS-CoV-1 in China. Cases are subsequently reported around the world until May 2004. SARS was identified as probably a new and highly contagious viral disease.

  61. 2004

    Graphene isolated

    Graphene is isolated and investigated by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester. Both were awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for this work.

  62. 2005

    New laboratories open in Buxton


    HSL's new laboratory building in Buxton is officially opened, bringing together the facilities from Buxton and Sheffield. For the first time since its very early history, all staff are located under the one roof. The Sheffield site is sold to Sheffield University.

  63. 2006

    Control of Asbestos Regulations


    The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 comes into force, bringing together a number of other asbestos related pieces of legislation, with a greater emphasis on training and on reducing exposures.

  64. 2007

    Grayrigg derailment


    HSE assists the RAIB investigation into the fatal derailment near Greyrigg in Cumbria. One person lost their life and 30 were seriously injured. The cause is determined to be faulty points, the condition of which had gone undetected.

  65. 2008

    Tesla Roadster

    Deliveries of the first production Tesla Roadsters begin. It is the first all-electric car in serial production to use lithium-ion batteries and the first production all-electric car to travel more than 200 miles per charge.

  66. 2010s

  67. 2010

    Big Data

    Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, tells a conference that as much data is now being created every two days as was created from the beginning of human civilization to the year 2003.


  68. 2010

    Equality Act 2010


    The Equality Act protects people against discrimination, harassment or victimisation in employment, and as users of private and public services, based on nine protected characteristics.

  69. 2010

    DeepMind Technologies founded

    DeepMind Technologies, a British artificial intelligence company, is set up in London. Later acquired by Google, the company works on deep reinforcement learning algorithms in a numer of areas including game playing, protein folding and clinical data.

  70. 2011

    100 years of HSL


    The Health and Safety Laboratory celebrates its centenary, tracing its pedigree back to the Home Office Experimental Station established in 1911, and looking forward to the challenges of a rapidly changing work of work.

  71. 2011

    European Commission defines a nanomaterial

    The European Commission adopts a formal definition of a nanomaterial: "A natural, incidental or manufactured material containing particles... [where] or more external dimensions is in the size range 1 nm - 100 nm."

  72. 2013

    RIDDOR changes


    RIDDOR 2013 updates accident reporting requirements. One key change is the introduction of 'specified injuries', which replaces the previous 'major injury' category. The requirement to report injuries that lead to absence from work is changed from 'over 3 days' to 'over 7 days'.

  73. 2013

    Ebola virus epidemic

    The Western African Ebola virus epidemic (2013-2016) was the most widespread outbreak of Ebola virus disease in history. HSE worked to monitor and protect in this time, as well as educate hospitals on how to manage cases in the UK.

  74. 2014

    Mobile Internet use dominates

    The rise of the mobile machines - for the first time, more people are using mobile devices to access digital data than office or home computers.

  75. 2015

    COMAH 2015


    The Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations 2015 come into effect, replacing the 1999 Regulations. They seek to ensure that businesses "Take all necessary measures to prevent major accidents involving dangerous substances" and "Limit the consequences to people and the environment of any major accidents which do occur."

  76. 2015

    Alton Towers Smiler incident


    HSE investigates when a loaded train collides with an empty test train, causing life-changing and other serious injuries to a number of riders. Merlin Entertainments, owner of the theme park, were fined £5 million after pleading guilty to a breach of health and safety law.

  77. 2015

    Last deep coal mine in the UK closes

    Kellingley Colliery closes on 18 December 2015, marking the end of deep-pit coal mining in Britain.

  78. 2016

    Didcot Power Station collapse


    HSE investigates when a large section of the boiler house at Didcot A Power Station collapsed, while the building was being prepared for demolition. Four men were killed in the collapse.

  79. 2016

    Paris Agreement

    The Paris Agreement on climate change is signed by 195 nations, having been drafted at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21). The United States withdrew from the agreement in 2020, but rejoined in 2021.

  80. 2017

    Grenfell Tower fire

    Fire breaks out on 14 June 2017 in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block of flats in  West London and burns for over 60 hours. Seventy-two people lost their lives and 20 others were seriously injured. An Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety commissioned in the aftermath ultimately led to the creation of the Building Safety Regulator in 2020.

  81. 2018

    HSL becomes HSE Science and Research Centre


    HSL becomes the HSE Science and Research Centre.

  82. 2019

    COVID-19 outbreak in China

    The first cases of disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus emerge in China. Cases spread rapidy around the world and the WHO declares a pandemic on 11 March 2020.

  83. 2020s

  84. 2020

    3D printers become consumer items

    3D printers have reached the level of quality and price that allows them to move into consumer markets. Fused deposition modeling (FDM), which uses a continuous filament of a thermoplastic material, is the most common 3D printing process in use as of 2020.

  85. 2020

    VIOLET helps COVID-19 research


    VIOLET, a manikin developed by HSE, is used in training NHS staff in the use of PPE ensembles when handling infectious patients. The system uses fluorescent markers to visualise the spread of different bodily fluids and cross-contamination of staff and equipment.

  86. 2020

    BSR set up


    Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announces the immediate establishment of the new Building Safety Regulator (BSR) within HSE. It will enforce a new, more stringent set of rules that will apply to buildings of 18 metres and above or taller than 6 storeys.

  87. TODAY

  88. The Future

  89. 2030

    Sale of new petrol and diesel cars banned in UK

    Sales of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned in the UK under plans announced in 2020.

  90. 2035

    UK electricity system carbon-free

    The UK has committed to decarbonise its electricity system by 2035.

  91. 2050

    UK to achieve Net Zero

    The UK Government has committed, through legislation, to achieving a 'net zero' economy by 2050.



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