Health & safety at work

This pages give you information about various aspects of maintaining health and safety standards in the workplace.

Our objective is to enhance the health, safety and welfare of all working people and protect those who may be at risk from work activities in premises where the council are the enforcing authority.

What we do
We raise awareness of health and safety issues, providing help and advice to business owners, employees and members of the public, by inspecting workplaces and investigating accidents and complaints.
Health and safety enforcement is split between:
  • Northumberland County Council, covering most service and retail premises within our area
  • The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), covering larger premises, e.g. factories
Click here for more information on who enforces health and safety.
Most health and safety legislation places the legal duty to comply on the employer.
Responsibilities may be delegated to a ‘competent person' appointed to give health and safety advice, e.g. first aiders, fire wardens, caretaker, but the employer remains legally liable.
All employees have a legal duty to co-operate with the employer and not damage or misuse anything provided for health and safety.
Directors, managers, supervisors etc. can be prosecuted for health and safety offences if the offence took place with their 'consent or responsibility'.
Employers must consult their employees on health and safety matters.
  • provide a safe, healthy place of work for your staff, customers, visitors and contractors
  • provide and maintain safe equipment and machinery suitable for its purpose
  • plan work activities so they are safe and without risks to health, and provide necessary protective equipment
  • provide staff and others with necessary information, instruction, supervision and training
  • assess risks to staff and others from the workplace and activities, and check necessary safeguards are in place
  • check contractors use safe systems of work when on your premises and give them any information they might need to work safely, e.g. asbestos panels on fire doors
  • record accidents in your accident book and report them when necessary
The team looks to promote business efficiency by protecting people from accidents, ill health or injury, and properties from sustaining damage.
We ensure notifications received in accordance with the reporting of accidents and dangerous occurrences regulations (RIDDOR) are investigated in line with service policies.
We promote health and safety in Northumberland in accordance with local and national initiatives.
We carry out health and safety interventions, investigate complaints about workplaces and provide advice and education to businesses within Northumberland.
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.
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.
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.

Improvement notice
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.

Prohibition notice
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
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.
This section gives you information on RIDDOR '13 and what to do to report a workplace accident.

What is RIDDOR '13?
RIDDOR '13 stands for the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013.
RIDDOR '13 requires the reporting of work-related accidents, diseases and dangerous occurrences. It applies to all work activities but not to all incidents.
Reporting accidents and ill health at work is a legal requirement. The information allows the enforcing authorities to locate where and how risks arise and to investigate serious accidents. 
The authorities can then help and advise you on ways to reduce injury, ill health and accidental loss, much of which is uninsurable.
If you are an employer, self-employed or in control of a workplace, you will have duties under the regulations.
You need to report:
  • specified injuries
  • incapacitation of a worker that lasts more than seven days
  • occupational diseases
  • dangerous occurrences
Death or specified injury
If an employee or a self-employed person is killed or suffers a specific injury accidentally, or if a member of the public is killed or taken to hospital, you must notify the enforcing authority immediately.
The list of ‘specified injuries’ in RIDDOR 2013 (regulation four) are:
  • fractures, other than to fingers, thumbs and toes
  • any injury likely to lead to permanent loss or reduction in sight
  • any crush injury to the head or torso causing damage to the brain or internal organs
  • serious burns (including scalding) which cover more than 10% of the body or causes significant damage to the eyes, respiratory system or other vital organs
  • any scalping requiring hospital treatment
  • any loss of consciousness caused by head injury or asphyxia
  • any other injury from working in an enclosed space which leads to hypothermia or heat-induced illness, or requires resuscitation or admittance to hospital for more than 24 hours
More than seven-day incapacitation
Accidents must be reported where they result in an employee or self-employed person being away or unable to perform normal work duties for more than seven consecutive days because of their injury.
This seven-day period does not include the day of the accident, but does include weekends and rest days. The report must be made within 15 days of the accident.
More than three-day incapacitation
Accidents must be recorded, but not reported, where they result in a worker being incapacitated for more than three consecutive days.  
If you are an employer who must keep an accident book under the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1979, that record will be enough.
Non-fatal accidents to non-workers
Accidents to members of the public or others who are not at work must be reported if they result in an injury and the person is taken directly from the scene to hospital for treatment. Examinations and diagnostic tests do not count as ‘treatment.’
There is no need to report incidents where people are taken to hospital as a precaution.
If the accident occurred at a hospital, the report only needs to be made if the injury is a ‘specified injury’ (see above).
If a doctor confirms an employee suffers from a reportable work-related disease then you must report it to the authority.
Reportable diseases include:
  • certain poisonings
  • some skin diseases e.g. occupational dermatitis, skin cancer, chrome ulcer, acne
  • lung diseases including occupational asthma, asbestosis, mesothelioma
  • infections such as hepatitis, tuberculosis and tetanus
  • other conditions such as occupational cancer, some musculoskeletal disorders and hand-arm vibration syndrome.
Visit the Health and Safety Executive website for a full list of reportable diseases.
Dangerous occurrences
Dangerous occurrences are certain, specified near-miss events. Not all such events require reporting.
There are 27 categories of dangerous occurrences relevant to most workplaces.   
If you are working in someone else's premises and suffer either a major injury or an injury which means you cannot do your normal work for more than three days, they will be responsible for reporting. Where possible, you should ensure they know about it.
If you or a member of the public is injured while you are working on your own premises, a dangerous occurrence happens there, or a doctor says you have a work-related disease or condition, you need to report it.
However, if you are self-employed you don't need to immediately notify anyone if you suffer a major injury on your own premises. However, either you or someone acting for you should report it within 10 days.
The law requires certain work-related injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences to be reported to Health and Safety Executive.

You can do it online:
If you think an employer's activity is putting your safety at risk or damaging your health, then you should raise your concerns with that employer or person.

If no improvements are made and your safety or health is still at risk, you can report your complaint to the relevant enforcing authority (either the local authority or HSE) and ask them to look into it.
An employer must remove or control significant risks, which may include a change in procedure, providing specialist equipment and clothing and could involve arranging regular medical checks.
To co-operate with employers, employees must take care of their own health and safety and to also consider others who may be affected by your actions.
We cannot deal with complaints where we have no jurisdiction.

You should contact us if your complaint is about these types of premises within Northumberland:
  • offices (except government offices)
  • restaurants, cafes and takeaways
  • leisure premises (except council-owned facilities)
  • nurseries and playgroups (not schools)
  • pubs and clubs
  • privately owned museums
  • places of worship
  • sheltered accommodation and care homes
HSE is responsible for enforcing health and safety at workplaces including:
  • building sites
  • nuclear installations
  • schools and colleges
  • gas, electricity and water systems
  • hospitals and nursing homes
  • central and local government premises
  • offshore installations
Click here for more detailed information on who enforces health and safety.