This webpage is intended for those in business
who have duties under health and safety law (‘dutyholders’), for
example employers and those in control of workplaces. It
explains what you can expect when a health and safety inspector
calls at your workplace.
It also tells employees and their
representatives what information they may expect from an inspector
during a visit.
Who Enforces Health and 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
the inspector thinks it is appropriate. On a normal
inspection visit an inspector would expect to look at the
workplace, the work activities, your management of health and
safety, and to check that you are complying with health and safety
law. The inspector may offer guidance or advice to help
you. He/she may also talk to employees and their
representatives, take photographs and samples, serve improvement
notices and take action if there is a risk to health and safety
which needs to be dealt with immediately.
Enforcing Health and Safety Law
On finding a breach of health and safety law,
the inspector will decide what action to take. The action
will depend on the nature of the breach, and will be based on the
principles set out in the Health and Safety Commission’s (HSC)
Enforcement Policy Statement and the Council’s Health & Safety
Enforcement Policy. The inspector should provide
employees or their representatives with information about any
action taken, or which is necessary for the purpose of keeping them
informed about matters affecting their health, safety and
Inspectors may take enforcement action in
several ways to deal with a breach of the law. In most cases
Informal - Where the breach
of the law is relatively minor, the inspector may tell the
dutyholder, 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.
Improvement Notice - Where
the breach of the law is more serious, the inspector may issue an
improvement notice to tell the dutyholder to do something to comply
with the law. The inspector will discuss the improvement
notice and, if possible, resolve points of difference before
serving it. T he 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 dutyholder time to
appeal to an Employment Tribunal if they so wish (see ‘Appeals’
below). The inspector can take further legal action if the
notice is not complied with within the specified time period.
Prohibition Notice - 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. The dutyholder will be told in writing about the
right of appeal to an Employment Tribunal (see ‘Appeals’
Prosecution - In some cases
the inspector may consider that it is also necessary to initiate a
prosecution. Decisions on whether to prosecute are informed
by the principles in HSC’s Enforcement Policy Statement. 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 in some cases
imprisonment may be imposed by higher courts.
Appeals - A dutyholder will
be told in writing about the right of appeal to an Employment
Tribunal when an Improvement or Prohibition Notice is served.
The appeal mechanism is also explained on the reverse of the
notice. The dutyholder will be told:
- How to appeal, and given a form with which to
- Where and within what period an appeal may be
- That the remedial action required by an
improvement notice is suspended while an appeal is pending.
Information to Employees or their Representatives
During a normal inspection visit an inspector
will expect to check that those in charge, e.g. employers, have
arrangements in place for consulting and informing employees or
their representatives, e.g. safety representatives, about health
and safety matters. Such arrangements are required by
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 so wish.
The inspector will provide employees or their
representatives with certain information where necessary for the
purpose of keeping them informed about matters affecting their
health, safety and welfare. This information relates to the
workplace or activity taking place there, and action which the
inspector has taken or proposes to take. The type of information
that an inspector will provide includes:
- Matters which an inspector considers to be of
- Details of any enforcement action taken by
the inspector; and
- An intention to prosecute the business (but
not before the dutyholder is informed).
Depending on the circumstances, the inspector
may provide this information orally or in writing.
This webpage sets out what you can expect when
a health and safety inspector calls at your workplace. If you have
a complaint that these procedures have not been followed then you
can contact the inspector’s manager to discuss the matter.
If the inspector is from Northumberland
County Council you can contact their manager via the telephone
number provided above and ask for your complaint to be
Details of making a complaint where the the
inspector is from the Health and Safety Executive can be
found on the Health and Safety
Executive's (HSE 's) website.