When they think it is necessary, inspectors can take ‘enforcement action’, to protect the public. For example, they can:
Health and safety law is enforced by inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 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 to check that you are complying with health and safety law. The inspector may offer guidance and 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.
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 Powys County Council’s Enforcement Policy. 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. A summary of the inspection can be found on the report of visit form, the original copy is left for the dutyholder and a copy for their employees is also left if applicable.
Inspectors may take enforcement action in several ways to deal with a breach of the law. In most cases these are:
Where the breach of the law is relatively minor, the inspector may tell the dutyholder, 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.
Where the breach of law is more serious, the inspector may issue an improvement notice to tell the dutyholder 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 dutyholder 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.
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 dutyholder will be told in writing about the right of appeal to an Employment Tribunal (see ‘Appeals’).
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 Powys County Council’s Enforcement Policy. 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 a fine of up to £20,000, or six months’ imprisonment, or both. Unlimited fines and in some cases imprisonment may be imposed by higher courts.
A dutyholder 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 dutyholder will be told:
Powys County Council has a published Enforcement Policy adopted by Council Members. This policy incorporates the principles of transparency, consistency, targeting, and proportionality in the enforcement action that is taken, and that inspectors are accountable for their actions. The enforcement policy is available on the internet at powys.gov.uk or alternatively contact the Commercial Section of Environmental Health.
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:
Depending on the circumstances, the inspector may provide this information verbally or in writing.
If you have a complaint that these procedures have not been followed or about the works that are required then you can contact the inspector’s manager to discuss the matter. If you are still not satisfied you can use the local authority’s 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 HSC. In cases of maladministration you can also make a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.