Health and Safety legislation is enforced by the HSE or Local Authorities (LA) depending on the main activity carried out at any particular premises. In general Local Authorities are the main enforcing authority for retail, wholesale distribution and warehousing, hotel and catering premises, offices and the consumer leisure industries.
Inspectors have the right to enter any workplace without giving notice, though notice may be given where the inspector considers it appropriate.
The LA National Enforcement Code introduced in May 2013 set out the principles that each LA should follow to ensure a consistent, proportionate and targeted approach to regulation based on risk. We use a number of different approaches to regulate and influence businesses in the management of health and safety risks including:
Where the breach of the law is relatively minor, the inspector may tell the duty holder, 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 the law is more serious, the inspector may issue an improvement notice to tell the duty holder to do something to comply with the law.
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 duty holder time to appeal to an Industrial Tribunal if they so wish.
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.
In some cases the inspector may consider that it is also necessary to initiate a prosecution. 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 imprisonment may be imposed by higher courts.
The HSE website provides uptodate and comprehensive guidance to businesses - https://www.hse.gov.uk/simple-health-safety/index.htm