Health & Safety

A visit from the HSE – what to expect?

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At some point during your business life, you may receive a visit from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for any number of reasons, and a visit from an inspector is not an unusual event. They don’t always tell you that they are coming, and the law allows them to visit at any time that is deemed reasonable. Although inspectors have the power to enter your workplace, they still have to follow the government’s code of practice on entering your business.

During the visit
The inspector may look at how you keep your workers and anyone affected by your activities healthy and safe. They may also advise you on health and safety or ensure you provide suitable arrangements, i.e., welfare facilities, such as running hot and cold water, soap, hand drying facilities, and toilets.

While the inspector is on-site, they may –

  • ask you about your workers and what they do on a day-to-day basis.
  • look at any possible health risks arising from the work they are doing.
  • look at any machinery or other equipment that you have for hazards.
  • ask to see records or other documents like equipment inspections, training, or risk assessments.
  • take photographs.

The inspector will want to know about –

  • what are the main health and safety issues in your workplace.
  • what your own knowledge or industry experience of health and safety is.
  • the inspector may also discuss issues like safety standards guidance and everyday practices in your industry.
  • the inspector may also need to talk to your employees or their representatives during the visit.

What if there’s something wrong?
During the visit, the inspector may act if they find you’re breaking the law. They may also tell you to immediately stop a dangerous workplace activity. For example, a hazardous activity could be people working on a roof where scaffolding is unsafe.

After the visit
When the inspector has completed a review of your workplace and activities, they might:

  • Offer you advice (either verbal or in writing). The inspector may give you advice, verbally or in writing, about some improvements you could make to health and safety in your workplace; this advice is free.
  • Give you a notification of contravention. A notice of contravention (NoC) is a document or letter that tells you about the health and safety laws you’ve broken. It also explains how you’ve broken them. An NoC will tell you what to do to stop breaking the law. The inspector will only give you a NoC if they think you are in a ‘material breach’ of the law. This means the inspector thinks you have broken the law seriously enough for them to write to you about it. If the inspector gives you a NoC, you’ll have to pay for the cost of the visit.
  • Give you an improvement notice. An improvement notice will tell you what is wrong, any changes you need to make to put things right, and how long you have to make those changes. Generally, an inspector will give you at least 21 days to make any changes. You commit a criminal offence if you don’t make the changes they provide you in the time.
  • Give you a prohibition notice. You may get a prohibition notice if there is a risk of serious personal injury now or in the future. This could be, for example, people working on a roof where scaffolding is unsafe. A prohibition notice orders you to stop doing something until you have made it safe to continue. This could be, for example, keeping workers off a roof until you fix any unsafe scaffolding. You commit a criminal offence if you don’t comply with a prohibition notice.
  • Prosecute you for breaching health and safety laws. The HSE can prosecute you for breaking health and safety laws or failing to comply with an improvement or prohibition notice. The courts can fine you or, in some cases, send you to prison.

Recovering the HSEs costs – Fee for Intervention (FFI)
If they give you a notification of contravention you will have to pay a fee, which is called a ‘fee for intervention’ (FFI). This fee will include the costs for the time of the entire original visit. And it may also include time:

  • preparing reports.
  • getting specialist advice.
  • talking to you after the visit.
  • talking to your workers.

The fee can vary and will depend on the following:

  • how long the original visit was.
  • the time spent helping you put things right.
  • the time it took to investigate your case.
  • any time they spend acting against you.

It pays to be organised, have documentation available, and be polite as possible during an inspector’s visit; they are only doing their job and trying to assist you in maintaining a safe and healthy business.

If you need any further information or advice on this topic please contact our Health and Safety Team on 01274 864 999.

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