A guide to workplace inspections

Learn about what we look for in an inspection and your requirements regarding health and safety in the workplace.

Interventions

Ensuring relevant health and safety standards are met and maintained by businesses is the responsibility of the business, but council officers have a range of proactive and reactive interventions available to use to promote and enforce these standards. These include advisory visits, topic-based inspections and other communications.

Advisory visits

These may be undertaken at medium-risk premises or to update our records where details about the business has changed. During these visits the officer may give information on general topics they feel may benefit the business or answer questions from the business. 

These visits are not inspections and the officer will not be acting under their powers. They will advise the business of the nature of the visit as soon as they enter the premises. If any matters of serious concern are noted then the officer will advise you that the visit has now become an inspection and that they are acting under their powers.

Inspections

Although we try to inspect premises at suitable times, the inspector has the authority to enter any work place without giving notice. On a normal inspection an inspector would expect to see the workplace, the work activities, management practices and procedures. He/she may talk to employees, their representatives, or other persons connected to your activity. They may take photographs and samples if they feel this is necessary.

Where there is risk to health and safety the inspector may take immediate action to deal with that risk.

Enforcement

If an inspector finds a problem or a breach of legislation he/she may deal with it in one of several ways. The action taken will depend on the severity of the breach and any action taken will be based on the principals set out in our enforcement policy statement.

Inspectors 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 welfare.

The action available to an inspector when investigating a breach of legislation is:

Informal
Where the breach of law is relatively minor, the inspector may tell the person responsible what to do to comply with the law. If asked, the inspector will write to confirm any advice and to distinguish legal requirements from best practical advice. The inspector may decide to write to the person responsible for any contravention so that we have a record of our visit and the advice given.

Improvement notice
(Health and safety at work visits)
With matters that affect peoples' health, safety and welfare at work, the inspector may decide to serve an improvement notice. The notice will tell the responsible person 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 explain what needs to be done, why and by when. The person responsible must either comply with the notice or appeal within 21 day to an employment tribunal.

Prohibition notice
(Health and safety at work and safety at sports grounds)
Where a work activity involves or will involve a serious risk to personal injury, the inspector may serve a prohibition notice stopping the activity immediately or after a specified time period and not allowing it to resume until after remedial action has been taken. Although a prohibition notice can be the subject of an appeal to an employment tribunal, the work activity must stop until after the tribunal.

Prosecution
In some cases the inspector may consider it necessary to initiate a prosecution. This is usually where other means such as an improvement notice has failed or where the inspector believes the danger is so great the offender should have been aware and taken steps to prevent it. With licensing legislation, prosecutions are taken where it is in the public interest to do so.

Seizure of goods
With some licensing legislation inspectors may seize, as evidence, goods being sold or displayed, leaflets being distributed and, in some cases, vehicles being used in the offence.

Penalties
Fines and costs imposed by the courts will vary according to the severity of the offence and the legislation that the offence was committed under. Health and safety law gives the courts considerable scope for punishing offenders and deterring others. For example, a failure to comply with an improvement notice or a court remedy order, carries a fine up to £20,000, or six months imprisonment. Unlimited fines and in some cases imprisonment may be imposed by higher courts.

Where goods are seized under licensing law the courts may order the goods to be forfeited in addition to any fine that is imposed.

Appeals

When an improvement or prohibition notice is served the person or business that it is served on will be notified in writing about their right of appeal to an employment tribunal. The appeal mechanism will be explained and they will be told:

  • how to appeal and given a form with which to appeal
  • where and within what period an appeal may be brought
  • that the remedial action required by an improvement notice is suspended while an appeal is pending

Information to Employees

During a normal health and safety inspection an inspector will expect to check that those in charge, (employers), have arrangements in place for consulting and informing employees or their representatives (safety representatives) about health and safety matters. Such arrangements are required by law.

Where appropriate an inspector will meet or speak to employees or their representatives during a visit. Employees or their representatives should be given the opportunity to speak to the inspector in private 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 the inspector considers to be of serious concern; details of any enforcement action taken by the inspector, and any intention to prosecute the business (but not before the business has been informed). Depending on the circumstances the inspector may provide this information orally or in writing.

Suggestions and complaints

We are determined to provide the best service possible and we are committed to ongoing review and improvement. If you have any suggestions about our service or if you have a complaint, please let us know by either contacting us directly or through the Brent Customer Services local offices.