Health & Safety Inspections
Council Environmental Health Officers carry out health and safety inspections in premises for which Council is the enforcing authority for health and safety at work law. Inspectors may visit your workplace with or without notice and will examine your workplace and work activities, look at how health and safety is managed and talk to your staff and their representatives. They may also check that you have procedures in place to consult and inform your staff about health and safety issues.
Afterwards, they will discuss any concerns with you, explain what you should do to comply with health and safety law and inform you of any action you need to take. Copies of their findings may also be given out to representatives of your staff. It is usual for our inspectors to take enforcement action if they find serious health and safety risks.
What kind of action can inspectors take?
When we take enforcement action, we try to be fair and to treat all businesses in a similar way. We will explain why the action is being taken and give business owners the opportunity to have their views heard if they have concerns.
Click here to view Council’s Environmental Services Enforcement Policy which sets out more detailed guidelines for enforcement action. Inspectors can take the following types of enforcement action depending on the level of risk to people’s health and safety:-
Where the breach of the law is relatively minor, the inspector may tell the business owner what to do to comply with the law and explain why. This can be confirmed in writing if asked. The inspector will also try to make it clear what is a legal requirement and what is best practice.
When the breach of the law is more serious, the inspector may issue an improvement notice and will, where possible, talk to the business owner about the notice and what it means before it is served.
The notice will say what needs to be done, why, and by when. The time given for work to be carried out will always be more than 21 days as there is a right of appeal to an industrial tribunal (see ‘Appeals’ below).
An extension of the time can be given in reasonable circumstances. The inspector can take a prosecution if you haven’t finished the work listed on the notice by the date given.
Where an activity involves, or will involve, a risk of serious personal injury, the inspector may serve a Prohibition Notice to stop that activity until action is taken to prevent people being harmed. The Notice can take immediate effect or may, in certain circumstances require the activity to stop within a number of days. Where possible, this will be discuss with the business operator. The notice will explain why the action is necessary and details about how to appeal to an industrial tribunal (see ‘Appeals’ below) will be given.
In some cases the inspector may feel that it is necessary to take a prosecution. Again the council’s enforcement policy will give more details on how decisions to prosecute are taken.
Health and safety at work law allows for high levels of fines and even imprisonment. For example, failure to comply with an Improvement or Prohibition Notice or a Court Order, taken in a Magistrates’ Court, can result in a fine of up to £20,000, or six months imprisonment, or both. Cases taken to the Crown Court can lead to unlimited fines and in some cases imprisonment.
How can I appeal a decision?
If you are given an improvement or prohibition notice, it will include details of how you can appeal to an industrial tribunal, as well as a copy of the appeal form.
You will also be informed that your improvement notice is suspended until the appeal hearing. Please note a prohibition notice usually continues until the date of the tribunal.
Information for employees or their representatives
During a visit, an inspector may check that those in charge have arrangements in place for consulting and informing employees or their representatives about health and safety issues. An inspector may wish to meet or speak to employees or their representatives privately during a visit. He/she may provide them with information about serious concerns affecting their health, safety and welfare and any enforcement action taken, including whether they are going to prosecute. Copies of this may be given to employee representatives.
What happens if I have a complaint?
Any complaints regarding our service should be made to the relevant office below or via Council’s Complaints Procedure.