If there is an accident or a health and safety problem within your workplace there are a number of agencies that can potentially enforce health and safety law.
Let’s examine what these are.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE)
The Health and Safety Executive, or HSE, was created to oversee, analyse, and implement health and safety law.
The HSE also generate Codes of Practice and guidance. Codes of Practice supplement regulations and contain advice on requirements and practice implementation. They have quasi-legal status.
The HSE is responsible for many related practices, such as:
- Gathering health and safety statistics
- Spearheading health and safety initiatives
- Investigating health and safety incidents
- Providing guidance for employees, and
- Maintaining a functional website
The HSE also operates a national team of inspectors who deal with higher risk facilities not covered by local authorities; this includes areas such as transport systems and nuclear power stations.
Alternatively, local authority inspectors are responsible for inspections in:
- Retail and
- Wholesale shops
- Entertainment centres, and
The Powers of Health & Safety Inspectors
Inspectors, whether they are HSE or local authority, have various powers. These are the same for both bodies. They include the right to:
- Enter a facility at any point, with or without the police
- Examine a workspace and require that it not be altered in any way
- Request or take samples,
- Take equipment off-site,
- Ask for documentation related to a particular incident
- Take and destroy any equipment or substance that is deemed harmful
- Hand out notices of enforcement, and
- Request legal action
An inspector can give a company a formal caution, which is the notification of an offence, without court prosecution. If a company has received one formal caution, and they violate a law again, they will go to court.
Improvement & Prohibition Notices
Improvement and prohibition notices are the two types of an enforcement notice.
Improvement notices are given out if a specific part of an Act has been broken. The notice supplies a date by which the problem must be rectified. If an employer wants to appeal, the appeal must be made to the employment tribunal within 21 days. The notice goes into suspension until the appeal is reviewed by the tribunal
Prohibition notices are issued in more serious situations. If given a prohibition notice, an employer must stop doing the action or working with the equipment that the inspector felt was dangerous.
The notice is effective immediately, and also states which law has been broken. An appeal can be made to the tribunal, but the notice does not go into suspension
Staying Above the Law
Employers that do their part to maintain high standards of health and safety will receive less attention from the HSE and local inspectors.
This is one more reason why it is essential that all organisations ensure they have risk assessed and controlled the risks they face and provided their workers with all of the tools that they need to work safely, including top-notch health and safety online training.