Health and safety inspector
What you can expect when a health and safety inspector calls at your workplace. It also tells employees and their representatives what information they may expect from an inspector during a visit.
Who enforces health and safety law?
Health and Safety law is enforced by inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and 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 to check that you are complying with health and safety law. The inspector may offer guidance or advice to help you. He/she may also 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 which needs to be dealt with immediately.
Enforcing health and safety law
On finding 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 will be based on the principles set out in the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Enforcement Policy Statement and the Councils General Statement of Enforcement Policy (PDF) , both of which were developed with regard to the Regulators’ Code , to provide a clear, flexible and principles-based framework for how regulators should engage with those they regulate.
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. In most cases these are:
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, and to distinguish legal requirements from best practice 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, why and by when. 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’). 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 allowing it to be resumed until remedial action has been 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’).
Prosecution – In some cases the inspector may consider that it is also necessary to initiate a prosecution. Health and safety law gives the courts considerable scope for punishing offenders and deterring others. For example, a failure to comply with an improvement or prohibition notice will carry a maximum penalty in the magistrates’ court of an unlimited fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or both. In the Crown Court, the maximum penalty is an unlimited fine or imprisonment not exceeding two years or both.
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. 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
If an appeal is brought against service of an improvement notice, the operation of the notice is suspended until the appeal is either heard or withdrawn. A prohibition notice, whether immediate or deferred, is not automatically suspended by an appeal. The appellant may, however, apply to the Employment Tribunal for a direction suspending operation of the notice until the appeal is heard.
Information to employees or their representatives
During a normal inspection visit an inspector will expect to check that those in charge, eg employers, have arrangements in place for consulting and informing employees or their representatives, eg 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 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 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 which the inspector has taken or proposes 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.
If you are unhappy with the way you have been dealt with to put matters right and you disagree, then in the first instance you should discuss this with the inspector.
If you cannot sort out the problem with the person you have been dealing with then ask them for the name of their manager. You can then ask to speak, or if you prefer, write to them. They will investigate your complaint and tell you what they are going to do about it.
If you are still not satisfied you can contact The Independent Regulatory Challenge Panel. They will look into complaints regarding advice given by inspectors about health and safety which you think is incorrect or goes beyond what is required to control the risk adequately. The panel’s role is advisory. The regulator will respect the independence of the panel and its advice and where appropriate take it on board. The panel can be contacted at The Independent Regulatory Challenge Panel .
Instead, or if you are not satisfied with the findings of the Independent Regulatory Panel, you can follow the local authority’s formal complaints procedure by completing the online feedback form .
You do have some alternative routes to seek resolution either by contacting your local councillor , if you have not already done so, and if necessary, having exhausted all other routes, the Local Government Ombudsman , whose role is to consider complaints that the local authority has not acted properly or fairly or has provided a poor service.
Regulation and Enforcement Services, Port Health Office, Estuary House, Wharncliffe Road North, Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, DN3 13QL
Telephone: 01472 326299 option 3
Opening times: by appointment only