What to expect when a council health and safety inspector calls.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has the national lead for health and safety policy whilst enforcement of health and safety law is split between HSE and Local Authorities depending upon the activity undertaken by the duty holder.
So both HSE and local authorities work towards the same strategy to achieve a sensible approach to health and safety compliance. This strategy can be found on the the Health and Safety Executive website.
Health and Safety Executive (external website)
As a council our approach to health and safety enforcement must follow the national code. More information on the national code can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website.
Generally we visit premises including:
We have the right to enter any workplace without giving notice, although we may give notice where we think it is appropriate.
On a visit we would normally look at:
We may offer guidance or advice to help you and may also talk to employees and their representatives.
If necessary, we may take photographs and samples and take action if there is a risk to health and safety which needs to be dealt with immediately.
If we find a breach of health and safety law, we will decide what action to take. This will be based on the principles set out in our enforcement policy statement.
We will provide employees or their representatives with information about any action taken.
Enforcement action may include:
Where the breach of the law is relatively minor, we may tell you as duty holder, for example, the employer or contractor, what to do to comply with the law and explain why.
We will, if asked, write to confirm any advice, and to distinguish legal requirements from best practice advice.
Where it is more serious, we may issue an improvement notice to tell you, the duty holder, to do something to comply with the law.
We will discuss the improvement notice and, if possible, resolve points of difference before serving it.
The notice will say:
We can take further legal action if the notice is not complied with within the specified time period.
Where an activity involves, or will involve, a risk of serious personal injury, we may serve a prohibition notice prohibiting the activity:
Not allowing it to be resumed until remedial action has been taken.
The notice will explain why the action is necessary. You, as duty holder, will be told in writing about the right of appeal to an Industrial Tribunal (see ‘Appeals’ below).
In some cases we may consider that it is also necessary to initiate a prosecution. Decisions on whether to prosecute are informed by the principles in our enforcement policy statement.
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, or a court remedy order, carries:
Unlimited fines and in some cases imprisonment may be imposed by higher courts.
You, as duty holder, will be told in writing about the right of appeal to an Industrial Tribunal when an improvement or prohibition notice is served. This is also explained on the reverse of the notice.
You will be told:
During a visit we will check that the arrangements, required by law, for consulting and informing employees or their safety representatives, about health and safety matters are in place.
Wherever possible, we will meet with employees during a visit, unless this is clearly inappropriate because of the purpose of the visit and they should always be given the opportunity to speak privately to us, if they so wish.
We will provide employees or their representatives with information about action which we have taken or proposes to take.
This information may include:
Depending on the circumstances, we may provide this information orally or in writing.
You can contact us by:
Telephone: (01482) 396174
or alternatively you can write to:
Health Safety and Animal Health Manager Health and Safety Regulatory Services Housing and Public Protection East Riding of Yorkshire Council County Hall Beverley HU17 9B
If you are still not satisfied you can use the local authority’s formal complaints procedure available by using the 'contact us' option on the right hand side of the page.
In cases of maladministration you can also make a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.
Local Government Ombudsman (external website)
More information, including what businesses must do by law, can be found in the following HSE leaflet:
An introduction to health and safety. Health and safety in small businesses leaflet INDG259(rev1) HSE Books 2003 is available to download by accessing the HSE website.