The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was set up to prevent work-related death, injury or ill-health and provide support to businesses on managing risk. It is also their job to conduct a health and safety investigation when an incident occurs or a complaint is received.

A HSE inspector will investigate in order to establish the facts of the case, identify how the incident occurred (if one did) and what lessons can be learnt in order to prevent a reoccurrence. They will also look to uncover any breaches of health and safety regulations and take subsequent enforcement action if needed.

If your business is subject to a health and safety investigation it is important to remember that an inspector can enter your business premises without prior notice and it is advisable not to try and persuade them to come back another day as this can look as if you are trying to hide something.

The inspector may also wish to speak with a number of your employees and take photos and samples.

If a breach is discovered

You will be issued with enforcement action. This will take the form of either:

• An informal action – For minor breaches, you will be told what to do to achieve compliance and why you need to do it.
• Improvement notices – For more serious breaches, you will be issued with a notice in which you will need to implement the changes, usually within 21 days.
• Prohibition notices – For breaches endangering the safety of individuals, you will be told to cease certain activities with immediate effect.
• Prosecution – There is the potential for prosecution where the inspector deems there to be a complete disregard for Health and Safety.

If a HSE prosecution is successful, the Court will decide on a penalty to impose. Penalties for offences have risen sharply over recent years with significant fines being imposed on companies, plus individual senior managers and directors also facing prosecution.

For more information about UK health and safety legislation, or to speak to an experienced lawyer about a potential or existing legal situation, call 0845 287 0939 or email us through our online enquiry form.