Enforcing health and safety

Our health and safety team inspects business premises and investigates accidents or complaints.

We have enforcement powers under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to help us protect the health, safety and well-being of business employees and members of the public.

Our emphasis is on helping businesses to avoid significant risks by providing advice and guidance.  However,  we will use our enforcement powers to deal with those who put others at risk, particularly where they deliberately flout the law.

Health and safety enforcement powers

Section 20 of the Health and Safety at Work Act gives us the power to:

a) Enter the premises at any reasonable time - for example when someone is at the premises. We do not need a warrant to do this

b) Take with us a police constable

c) Take with us any other person who is authorised to be there, and any equipment required

d) Carry out an investigation and examination as necessary

e) Direct that a premises, or part of it, remains undisturbed, for as long as necessary

f) Take measurements, photographs or records as necessary

g) Take samples of articles, or substances in the premises or in the atmosphere

h) Dismantle, treat, or test any article likely to cause danger to health or safety. If possible, this will be in front of a responsible person

i) Take possession, or detain, any object or substance likely to cause danger to health or safety, so that it can be examined, prevented from being tampered with, or to keep as evidence

j) Require any person to answer and sign any declaration of truth

k) Require the business to produce copies of any documentation, computer records, etc and for us to be able to inspect and take copies of it

l) Require such facilities or assistance as necessary

m) Exercise any other power necessary to carry out our responsibilities

Health and safety improvement notices

Section 21 of the Health and Safety at Work Act give us additional powers.

Where the breach of the law is serious or persistent, we may issue an improvement notice to tell 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 what needs to be done, why, and by when.

We will give you at least 21 days in which to resolve the problems. This also allows time to appeal the decision to an industrial tribunal if you want.. If the problems are not resolved, we can take further legal action.

Health and safety prohibition notices

Section 22 of the Health and Safety at Work Act gives us the power to issue a prohibition notice where an activity involves, or will involve, a risk of serious personal injury.

We can prohibit the activity immediately, or after a specified period, where you cannot resume the activity until you have taken remedial action.

The notice will explain why the action is necessary.

We will tell you in writing about the right of appeal to an industrial tribunal.

Seizure of objects or substances that could cause danger or personal injury

Section 25 of the Health and Safety at Work Act gives us the power to seize or destroy an object or substance if it is a cause of imminent danger or serious personal injury. This also relates to any plant and/or equipment on the premises, which we want to make safe by removing fuses or taking possession of keys to plant rooms etc.

If we decide to use our seizure powers, we will serve a notice soon after the event and tell you what action we have taken and why.

For more information about appealing a decision, please visit our health and safety appeals advice page.

Health and safety prosecutions

In some cases, we may consider that it is also necessary to prosecute a business.

Our decision on whether to prosecute will be informed by our pdf icon Enforcement Policy [115kb]The Code for Crown Prosecutors and the Enforcement Management Model.

Health and safety penalties

Health and safety law gives the courts considerable scope for punishing offenders and deterring others. For example, failing 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.

 
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