What to expect when a health & safety inspector calls
Updated: Feb 11, 2021
The Health and Safety Executive have made it very clear that it is business as usual and that workplace visits will still take place. There are currently a number of focus areas for workplace visits that the health and safety executive have highlighted through social media. These include covid-19 controls for all businesses and the control of dust at construction sites.
With COVID-19 being the newest workplace health hazard its no surprise that it has become an area of focus for visiting health and safety inspectors. As this hazard affects all businesses currently working through the pandemic it is likely that workplaces who are unfamiliar with the inspectors may get a visit so I thought this topic may prove useful to a lot of people out there.
First off, its probably worth watching this short video produced by the health and safety executive which gives a good insight into what to expect. I have also added some further information below for completion.
As the video states, an inspector can visit your business at anytime and does not need to provide prior notice of their visit. They are however obliged to only enter a premises at a 'reasonable time' unless they think there is a situation which may be dangerous.
If during their inspection they find that there is something wrong and that the business is in breach of health and safety legislation then there are few options available to them. These are covered briefly in the video but here is a more detailed explanation as to what each option means:
Advice: The inspector can give advice either verbally or written about improvements that can be made to the health and safety of the workplace. They do not charge for this advice.
Notification of Contravention (NoC): This occurs if there is a material breach of legislation. Essentially this means that the inspector has found something that they think is serious enough to warrant issuing a letter that tells you exactly what health and safety laws have been broken. The letter should also tell you how they are being broken. and what actions you need to take to take to stop breaking the law. There is a charge for this called a Fee For Intervention (FFI). The current hourly rate for FFI is £157.00 per hour. The aim of charging the fee is for the health and safety to recover their costs and will cover the time of:
the original visit,
getting specialist advice;
talking to you after the visit;
talking to you workers.
The final sum can be considerable depending on the input from the inspector and any specialists required to complete the work. For every 8 hour day worked the cost would be £1256.00.
Improvement Notice: This is similar to a NoC but the difference is that you are given a timeframe in which to make the changes stipulated in the letter. The minimum time you will be given to make the changes will be 21 days. FFI still applies to this scenario.
Prohibition Notice: This is the most serious notice that can be issued to you forcing you to stop doing whatever it is that the notice applies to. This is usually issued when there is imminent danger to life. You will not be permitted to carry on working until you have made the situation safe. FFI still apples to this scenario.
The final piece to all of this is the potential for prosecution. You can be prosecuted for breaking health and safety laws and also for failing to comply with an improvement or prohibition notice.
When an inspector visits your business to check that it is COVID secure, the inspector may also look to see if you have considered the impact of any changes made for covid-19 mitigation on other parts of the business. For example, they may look at how you now manage your first aid arrangements or your fire evacuation process whilst maintaining COVID-secure controls. The impact of newly introduced controls on other risks needs to be assessed to ensure that you are not increasing your exposure to risk in other areas.
An inspector will look at all aspects of health and safety including those specifically associated with health hazards. As occupational hygienists, Blue Turtle Ltd can help your business identify and rectify health and safety issues ensuring that your business is legally compliant with current legislation.
One vital thing to remember is that ignorance of the law is not a defence you can use when faced with prosecution.
So, if you are looking to engage in the services of Occupational Hygiene Consultants to help you with your workplace health hazards then look no further. If you would like to contact us to discuss any of your concerns then please visit our website for our contact details or fill in the contact form where we will be glad to help.