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What to expect when a Health and Safety inspector calls

 

Health and safety law is enforced by inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive or by inspectors from your local authority.

Inspectors have the right to enter any workplace without giving notice, though notice may be given where the inspector thinks it is appropriate. On a normal inspection visit an inspector would expect to look at the workplace, the work activities, your management of health and safety, and check that you are complying with health and safety law. The inspector may offer guidance or advice to help you. He/she may talk to employees and their representatives , take photographs and samples, serve improvement notices and take action if there is a risk to health and safety that needs to be dealt with immediately.
 

Enforcing Health and Safety Law

If the inspector finds a breach of health and safety law, the inspector will decide what action to take. The action will depend on the nature of the breach and be based on principles of the Enforcement concordat. The inspector should provide employees or their representatives with information about any action taken, or which is necessary for the purpose of keeping them informed about matters affecting their health, safety and welfare.

Inspectors may take enforcement action in several ways to deal with a breach of the law:

Informal

Where the breach of the law is relatively minor, the inspector may tell the duty holder, for example the employer or contractor, what to do to comply with the law, and explain why. The inspector will, if asked, write to confirm any advice.
 

Improvement Notice

Where the breach of the law is more serious, the inspector may issue an improvement notice to tell the duty holder to do something to comply with the law. The inspector will discuss the improvement notice and, if possible, resolve points of difference, before serving it. The notice will say what needs to be done, by when and why. The time period within which to take the remedial action will be at least 21 days, to allow the duty holder time to appeal to an Employment Tribunal if they so wish (see 'Appeals' below). The inspector can take further legal action if the notice is not complied with within the specified time period.
 

Prohibition Notice

Where an activity involves, or will involve, a risk of serious personal injury, the inspector may serve a prohibition notice prohibiting the activity immediately or after a specified time period, and not allow it to be resumed until remedial action is taken. The notice will explain why the action is necessary. The duty holder will be told in writing about the right of appeal to an employment Tribunal (see 'Appeals' below)
 

Prosecution

In some cases the inspector may consider that it is also necessary to initiate a prosecution. Decisions on whether to prosecute are informed by the principles in the Department's Enforcement Policy. Health and Safety law gives the courts considerable scope to punish offenders and to deter others. For example, a failure to comply with an improvement or prohibition notice, or court remedy order, carries a fine of up to £20,000, or 6 months imprisonment, or both. Unlimited fines, and in some cases imprisonment, may be imposed by higher courts.
 

Appeals

A duty holder will be told in writing about the right of appeal to an Employment Tribunal when an improvement or prohibition notice is served. Advice on the appeal mechanism is also explained on the reverse of the notice. The duty holder will be told:

  • how to appeal, and given a form with which to appeal;
  • where and within what period an appeal may be brought; and
  • that the remedial action required by an improvement notice is suspended while an appeal is pending.
 

Information to Employees or their Representatives

During a normal inspection visit, an inspector will expect to check that those in charge, e.g. employers, have arrangements in place for consulting and informing employees or their representatives, for example safety representatives, about health and safety matters. Such arrangements are required by law.

An inspector will meet or speak to employees or their representatives during a visit, wherever possible, unless this is a clearly inappropriate because of the purpose of the visit. When they meet, employees or their representatives should always be given the opportunity to speak privately to the inspector, if they so wish.

The inspector will provide employees or their representatives with certain information where it is necessary for the purpose of keeping them informed about matters affecting their health, safety and welfare. This information relates to the workplace or activity taking place there, and action that the inspector has taken or intends to take. The type of information that an inspector will provide includes:

  • Matters which an inspector considers to be of serious concern;
  • Details of any enforcement action taken by the inspector and
  • An intention to prosecute the business (but not before the duty holder is informed)
 

Depending on the circumstances, the inspector may provide this information orally or in writing.


Complaints

If you believe the above procedures have not been followed, then you can contact the Inspector's manager

If you are still not satisfied, you can use our formal complaints procedure. You can also contact HSE's local Authority Unit, which will see that your complaint is followed up promptly and fairly with the local authority. If it is unable to resolve the problem, it will report the matter to the Health and Safety Commission. In cases of maladministration you can also make a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman in England, Scotland or Wales.

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