What Powers Do Health and Safety Inspectors Have?

Posted on written by Sam Barton

Health and safety is vitally important to every business in this day and age.

Some think that it only really applies to building sites, factories or agricultural companies. The fact is that health and safety law applies to everyone and businesses from all sectors are often in breach of regulations.

This is where health and safety inspectors come in.

They are called to investigate health and safety issues where a serious accident has occurred or a complaint has been made.

The typical view of an inspector is someone that will go out of their way to find small issues in the way you run your company but what powers do they actually have?

They Have The Right of Entry

Basically, if a health and safety inspector has been instructed to visit your premises by the HSE or your local authority then there isn’t much you can do to stop them.

They have the right to enter your business premises and they can take the police along with them to gain entry. In fact, resisting the inspection is only going to make things worse in the long run.

An inspector doesn’t even need to give notice that they will be attending although depending on the nature of your work they may choose to do this if they think it is appropriate.

They Can Offer Advice Or Enforce Health and Safety Law

When the review is finished the inspector has a few options available in terms of enforcing changes on your business.

If the health and safety breach is relatively minor they can simply offer advice on how to correct the issue. For more serious offences then they can issue an improvement notice that lays out what you need to do to comply with the law and what timeframe you have to do this in although this will be at least 21 days to give you a chance to appeal.

If the health and safety breach is putting people directly at risk of injury then they have the power to issue a prohibition notice that basically suspends all activity until remedial action is taken.

They Can Prosecute Businesses In Certain Cases

The last enforcement power a health and safety inspector has available to them is to prosecute your business.

As we mentioned previously in this blog, prosecutions are up 6% in 2015-16 compared to the previous year. A health and safety inspector can prosecute your business for serious breaches of health and safety that can lead to fines or even imprisonment for those responsible.

Failing to comply with an improvement or prohibition notice can also lead to a fine of up to £20,000, 6 months’ imprisonment or even both in certain circumstances.

Health and Safety Inspectors and Your Business

The individuals tasked with assessing and enforcing health and safety in the workplace have wide-ranging powers that can seriously harm your business.

While they can simply offer advice or improvement notices they also have the authority to essentially shut down parts or all of your business if it is a risk to others. The threat of large fines and custodial sentences is very real as well.

Taking preventative measures with health and safety in the workplace is the best way to avoid having an inspector call to your premises. That being said, if a complaint or incident occurs then take their visit and any recommendations or notices seriously as the future of your business will depend on it.

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