Here you will find information regarding health and safety inspections by the council.
This page is intended for those in business who have duties under health and safety law, e.g. employers and those in control of workplaces, explaining what you can expect when a health and safety inspector calls.
Who enforces health & safety law?
Health and safety law is enforced by inspectors from Northumberland County Council or the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Inspectors have the right to enter any workplace without giving notice, though notice may be given where appropriate.
On a normal visit an inspector would expect to look at the workplace, work activities, your management of health and safety, and to check you are complying with health and safety law. The inspector may offer helpful advice.
They may also talk to employees and their representatives, take photographs and samples, serve improvement notices and take action if there is an immediate risk to health and safety.
Enforcing health & safety law
On finding a breach of health and safety law, the inspector decides what action to take.
The action will depend on the breach, and will be based on the council’s health and safety enforcement policy.
Inspectors may take action in several ways to deal with a breach of the law. In most cases these are:
Where the breach is relatively minor, the inspector may tell the dutyholder what to do to comply with the law and explain why. If asked, the inspector will write to confirm any advice, and to distinguish legal requirements from guidance.
Where the breach is more serious, the inspector may issue an improvement notice to tell the duty holder to do something to comply with the law. The inspector will discuss the notice and, if possible, resolve points of difference before serving it. The notice will say what needs to be done, why, and by when.
The time period within which to take remedial action will be at least 21 days, to allow the dutyholder time to appeal to an employment tribunal if they so wish (see 'appeals' below).
The inspector can take further action if the notice is not complied with within the allotted time period.
Where an activity involves, or will involve, the risk of serious injury, the inspector may serve a prohibition notice stopping the activity immediately or after a specified time period, and not allowing it to be resumed until action has been taken.
In some cases, the inspector may consider it is necessary to initiate a prosecution. Decisions on whether to prosecute are informed by the principles in HSE’s enforcement policy statement.
Health and safety law gives the courts considerable scope for punishing offenders and deterring others. For example, failure to comply with an improvement or prohibition notice, or a court remedy order, carries a fine of up to £20,000, six months’ imprisonment, or both.
A duty holder will be given information in the notes section on the back of an improvement notice about the right to appeal to an employment tribunal when a notice is served.
The duty holder will be told:
- how to appeal, and given a link to the form with which to appeal
- where and in what period an appeal may be brought
- the action required by an improvement notice is suspended while an appeal is pending
Information to employees or their representatives
During a normal visit, an inspector will check that those in charge have arrangements in place for consulting and informing employees or their representatives about health and safety matters which are required by law.
An inspector will meet or speak to employees or their representatives during a visit, wherever possible, unless this is clearly inappropriate because of the purpose of the visit.
When they meet, employees or their representatives should always be given the opportunity to speak privately to the inspector, if they wish.
Where necessary, the inspector will provide employees or their representatives with information to keep them informed about matters affecting their health, safety and welfare. This information relates to the workplace, activities taking place there, and actions which the inspector has taken or wants to take.
The type of information an inspector will provide includes:
- matters of serious concern
- details of any enforcement action taken
- an intention to prosecute the business (but not before the duty holder is informed)
Depending on the circumstances, the inspector may provide this information in writing or face to face.