Health and safety enforcement

The enforcement of health and safety legislation is split between the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities (LA's). In general HSE covers factories, building sites, mines and quarries, farms, fairgrounds, railways, chemical plant and offshore and nuclear installations.

LA's cover offices, shops, warehouses, hotel and catering, sport, leisure, consumer services (eg launderettes, hairdressers, undertakers, shoe repair, tyre and exhaust fitters), residential care homes and churches.

Our Health and Safety Service is delivered by the Commercial Protection team within the Communities Section. Primarily, the team seek to prevent accidents and ill health in the workplace. This is done by:

  • Inspections and a range of other interventions directed at workplaces to make sure that risks are effectively managed
  • Providing guidance and advice to businesses and members of the public
  • Investigating accidents, dangerous occurrences and occupational ill-health
  • Investigating complaints about working conditions or work practices
  • Promoting awareness and knowledge of safety issues

Enforcement Policy

The Environmental Services enforcement policy sets out how we will deal with contraventions of legislation, including health and safety legislation.

Read Environmental Services enforcement policy (PDF: 280Kb / 22 pages)

Frequently asked questions on Health and Safety Enforcement

Who enforces health and safety law?

Enforcement of health and safety law is split between the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) and Local Authorities, depending on the nature of the industry or premises.

How do I know who enforces health and safety in my premises?

As a general guide the HSE deal with agriculture, construction, schools, hospitals, police, fire services, railways and other transport plus fairgrounds and work carried out in or from domestic premises.

The Local Authority covers retail and wholesale premises, services provided to the public, leisure and cultural activities, hotels, pubs and restaurants.

What does enforcing health and safety law actually involve?

We have a statutory duty to 'make adequate arrangements for enforcement' in accordance with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. In May 2013, HSE published the National Local Authority Enforcement Code. This is designed to ensure that local authorities take a consistent and proportionate approach to their health and safety service delivery. Whilst the primary responsibility for managing health and safety risks lies with the business that creates the risk, local authority regulators have an important role in ensuring the effective and proportionate management of risks, protecting their communities and contributing to the wider public health agenda.

Inspectors have a range of interventions available to them including for example, inspections, partnership working with other agencies and trade organisations, working with specific industry sectors to combat identified risks, education and awareness raising campaigns on certain topics or with certain business sectors, provision of advice on a one to one basis and the investigation of complaints and accidents. Proactive inspection will only be used where intelligence suggests risks are not being effectively managed.

Inspectors will as appropriate advise business operators of things that need to be done to comply with the law, or which are considered good practice but are not legal requirements. Various types of action can be taken where necessary, from an advisory letter to prosecution for serious or repeated offences.

How likely is it that formal action would be taken against me?

The inspectors have a range of action they can take, including improvement and prohibition notices, but would usually reserve these, and prosecution of a business owner, for very hazardous situations that should have been better controlled, and cases where someone has been seriously harmed. Normally an inspector would try to deal with an issue informally in the first instance, unless there were compelling reasons to take formal action.

I don't really want to be inspected - is there anything I can do?

Proactive inspections are no longer routinely undertaken and where they do occur are targeted towards high risk premises and activities, and premises where intelligence suggests risks are not being effectively managed. It is more commonly the case that the inspector will carry out an intervention type other than inspection such as an advisory visit targeted towards a specific business sector and / or associated with a topic that has been identified either nationally, regionally or locally as a matter of concern.

Visits may also result from complaints from staff or the public or as a result of an accident investigation. Inspectors have various powers to allow them to do their job, including powers of entry.

Apart from the power of entry, what other powers do Inspectors have?

The simplest way to summarise their powers is to say that they may do whatever is needed to make a situation safe (such as seize an article, or issue a notice preventing something) or to allow them to fully investigate a problem (interview people, take samples, copy documents).

Last updated: Wednesday, 24 April, 2024.