Health and safety laws in the UK are enforced by inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or by inspectors from your local authority.
Normally, if an HSE Inspector wishes to carry out a routine inspection, they may, make contact to ensure that relevant members of staff are available. But it is worthwhile remembering that HSE Inspectors have the power to inspect any workplace they see fit and they can arrive unannounced.
Whether it’s spot checks to ensure workplace safety or by calling or visiting premises to ensure that they are, and remain, COVID Secure, the purpose of a visit from an HSE inspector is to protect the health, safety and welfare of employees and members of the public. They do this by identifying potential hazards and ensuring that business owners comply with current UK legislation.
Inspectors are given a general right to examine and investigate, they have the power to:
- Enter premises (accompanied by a police office or other authorised persons if necessary, taking with them any equipment required in order to carry out an examination).
- Direct that any equipment is to be left undisturbed, if required for examination.
- Take measurements, samples, photographs that may be required.
- Inspect and take copies of any documentation.
- Demand any information they think will be necessary from an employee.
Possible areas for inspection
Inspectors will concentrate on all areas of the workplace during an inspection. They will try and establish if the business is complying with current UK Health and Safety legislation, a typical inspection may concentrate on:
- The workplace
- COVID Secure procedures
- Work activities
- Your management of health and safety systems
- The provision of adequate welfare facilities for eating, resting and sanitation
What if there’s something wrong?
On finding a breach of health and safety law the inspector will decide what action to take.
Depending on the nature of the breach, the inspector may choose to:
- Offer written or verbal advice on the ways that you can improve health & safety within the workplace.
- Issue an improvement notice, this will give the duty holder 21 days to correct any issues identified by the Inspector.
- For more serious offences, issue a prohibition notice, this will force the duty holder to immediately stop any activities that have been deemed to be dangerous.
In some cases, the inspector may consider it necessary to initiate a prosecution, you may be taken to court and if found guilty issued with a fine or even given a prison sentence.
How to prepare
In order to comply with current health and safety legislation in the UK, businesses must ensure that they have effective health and safety management systems in place which are proportionate to the size and the nature of business activity.
Businesses that create a positive health and safety culture and regularly assess and manage their health and safety obligations will be prepared for when an HSE Inspector does arrive to carry out a visit.
As a minimum, you want to ensure that you have the following documents available:
- Your health and safety policy.
- Your signed health and safety policy statement.
- Your COVID-19 risk assessment and details of your control measures to ensure the premises remains COVID Secure.
- Risk assessments.
- Records of any inspections of work equipment which are required by law - this includes lifting equipment, pressurised systems or local exhaust ventilation to control exposure to substances used at work
- Any written safe working methods
- Any records of health and safety training carried out
- A valid employers' liability insurance certificate.
How Alcumus can help
For further information and advice on workplace health and safety or advice on how to ensure your business remains COVID Secure please contact Alcumus PSM to speak to one of our experts who can advise you further on 01484 439930 or email [email protected].
Listen to our recent webinar where we explain how software can also make it easier for businesses to prepare for the unexpected.
Alcumus PSM (People & Safety Management) specialises in human resources (HR) and health and safety (H&S) consulting for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Written by Gary Graham, Health & Safety Consultant