The purposes of health and safety inspections are:
- to identify any hazards and to assess any risks arising from the business activities
- to assess management controls of health and safety and their effectiveness
- to identify contraventions of The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Regulations made under it
- to offer advice and guidance on good health, safety and welfare practices
How often is a premises inspected?
The frequency of inspections will depend on the risk rating given to the premises at the time of the previous inspection. The risk rating is based on a number of matters:
- any health and safety hazards present at the premises
- how well the risks to health and safety are controlled
- the standards of repair, cleanliness and welfare facilities available to staff
- the risk to the public from the activities of the business
- the history of compliance with the law and general attitude of the management to health and safety
The frequency of inspection for the highest risk premises is once a year lowest risk premises will be inspected less frequently or may receive a health and safety self-assessment form to complete. A reactive visit or inspection may be carried out in response to an accident or a complaint, this will be explained by the officer at the time of the visit. Alternatively officers may visit or make contact as part of a targeted intervention in relation to a particular business activity or hazard e.g. gas safety.
Who will visit and when?
Inspections or other visits are carried out by a qualified Officer with appropriate training and experience.
Officers will normally make an appointment (although this may not always be the case) as they will need to speak to the person responsible for health and safety at the premises.
Authorised officers have a legal right of entry to the premises at all reasonable times, and proprietors must not refuse to let them in. Refusal of entry is a criminal offence, punishable with a heavy fine on conviction.
All officers carry photo identification and will be able to show it on demand.
During the inspection the officer may:
- talk to the proprietor and the staff about health and safety policies and procedures
- examine records such as training, risk assessments or periodic examinations reports required by law, such as lift reports
- examine the accident book
- observe normal operational procedures
- fully inspect the premises, including equipment
An officer has power to:
- serve notices to require compliance with health and safety standards
- seize items of equipment or documentation to use as evidence
- issue an emergency prohibition notice, prohibiting the use of equipment or closing down the premises if there is an imminent risk to safety
- prosecute if legal contraventions are serious. Courts may impose prohibitions, fines or imprisonment, on conviction
After the inspection
The officer will discuss what has been found and will give the proprietor or manager a report. This may be a hand-written report left at the premises. If works are needed, it will be followed by a letter detailing those works.
Usually, informal action, will be used first to seek compliance, by means of a letter or hand-written report. This is before any formal action, such as the service of a notice, is taken.
If an Improvement Notice is served, the works must be completed in the time allowed or the person in receipt of the notice will be prosecuted. Time scales are usually agreed with the proprietor before the notice is served. If the proprietor feels that the works are unreasonable, he may appeal - details on how to do this are provided with the notice. Failure to comply with a notice may lead to prosecution.
If anyone has any difficulty complying with an Improvement Notice within the time limit, they must contact us as soon as possible.
We keep information relating to businesses that we have prosecuted for health and safety offences. This information is passed to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) who maintain a central Prosecutions Register for the whole country. A link to this the Health & Safety Executive website can be found on the right hand side of this page.
Rights of Appeal
If you are a business owner and disagree with action you have been told to take by the local authority enforcement officer:
If you wish to challenge a formal enforcement notice that has been served on you by a health and safety enforcement officer (ie an Improvement notice or Prohibition Notice) then there is a specified legal process you must follow. You should have been notified of this when the notice was served. You must make any appeal promptly because there are strict time limits.
If you are being prosecuted by the Local Authority then you will be able to challenge this through the courts. The Local Authority has to provide you certain information in advance to allow you to defend yourself.
If you have contact with the Local Authority or the officer and are unhappy with the way they have dealt with you, you should let them know. They will want to work with you to find a solution and will always welcome suggestions to help improve their performance.
If an inspector has given you written advice and required you to take action to put matters right (but has not served an enforcement notice) and you disagree then in the first instance you should discuss this with them. If you cannot sort out the problem with the person you have been dealing with, ask them for the name of their manager. You can then ask to speak, or if you prefer, write to them. They will certainly investigate your complaint and tell you what they are going to do about it. Most complaints are settled in this way, very often immediately.
In addition to the steps above, each local authority will have a corporate complaints procedure for you to raise your complaint directly and seek resolution at a local level within specified timescales, Details of complaints procedures can be found on the website.
Having first raised the matter with the local authority under their formal complaints procedure, if you are still not satisfied then you have some alternative routes to seek resolution either by:
writing to the Local Authority Chief Executive and/or your local councillor , if you have not already done so or raising it with the Independent Regulatory Challenge Panel.
Your initial choice does not preclude you from pursuing the other route at a later stage.