Prime minister Tony Blair announced that the HSE was to be moved from the transport department during prime minister's questions last week.
Building revealed in June that the government was reviewing the future of the HSE and that it might move to the Department for Work and Pensions, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister or remain with the newly constituted Department for Transport.
The government's decision was criticised by the Construction Industry Council. Chief executive Graham Watts said it meant a greater level of fragmentation in the industry. Watts said the HSE should have been moved to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister alongside other regulatory agencies.
He said: "At first sight it looks like construction's regulatory bodies are scattered all over Whitehall. It is just another department for us to contend with."
However, Health and Safety Commission chairman Bill Callaghan welcomed the move. He said he was waiting to find out if the HSE would get any more money from the Treasury after the shift.
It is just another department for us to contend with
Graham Watts, chief executive, Construction Industry Council
Callaghan said: "Our task now is to work for sustained improvement. This can only be achieved through partnership between employers, workers, trade unions and safety representatives."
The decision to move the agency came as the HSE reported that the number of deaths in the construction sector had dropped 25% – from 105 to 79 – for the year ending April 2002 compared with the same period a year earlier.
However, these figures still represent nearly a third of all work-related deaths in the UK, which totalled 249.
Mike Cosman, head of the HSE's construction division, said he was encouraged to see the fall in fatalities, though he pointed out that it only represented a return to the average number of fatalities during the mid-1990s.
Cosman added that, despite a greater commitment from the industry to tackle safety issues, the sector still needed to improve.