HSE Inspector Warrants
The HSE's Inspectors are appointed under Section 19 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 as well as other pieces of legislation. All Inspectors carry a Warrant, which is an official legal document that confirms the named person is allowed to enforce the laws which fall under the Health and Safety Executive's jurisdiction.
Appointed inspectors will also carry a leaflet "Warranted powers of HSE inspectors" which explains said inspectors powers. Some inspectors have limited powers will only carry a warrant card confirming their name, appointment and describes the law that they are empowered to enforce.
The laws that an inspector may be appointed to enforce depend on their role, which will be specified by the warrant carried. An inspector's warrant will also provide information on the range of powers that inspector has.
Here are a few examples of an inspector's powers, taken directly from the warrant booklet:
- cause any article or substance to be dismantled or subjected to any process or test but not so as to damage or destroy it unless this is in the circumstances necessary for the purpose of the process or test)
- An inspector may, by notice served upon the occupier of any premises (including a dwelling house) or upon the owner or person in charge of any vehicle by which a specified pathogen, carrier or material is or has been present in contravention of this Order or of a licence issued under it, require the person on whom the notice was served to cleanse and disinfect such premises, place or vehicle in such manner as that inspector may by such notice specify at the expense of the person on whom the notice is served.
- prosecute before a court of summary jurisdiction in England and Wales proceedings for an offence committed under regulation 11 or 13 of the Regulations, pursuant to regulation 17(1) of the Regulations
You can read the full booklet of a HSE inspector's warranted powers here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/enforce/warrant-booklet.pdf
When an inspector visits your business
Examples of different types of inspection:
- Safety tour - this is a general inspection of your workplace.
- Safety sampling - systematic sampling of particular dangerous activities, processes or areas.
- Safety surveys - general inspections of particular dangerous activities, processes or areas.
- Incident inspections - these are carried out after an accident causing a fatality, injury, or near miss, which could have resulted in injury or death.
So when the inspector does visit in whatever form it may take, they are looking at the ways in which you keep your members of staff, the general public and anyone else who may be affected by your business operations safe and well.
In order to find the information they require they may ask you what your workers do and any processes and procedures in place, they may also ask your staff directly. They're also going to look at the possible risks arising from your work, including machinery and equipment in your workplace. Note they may also want to see the risk assessments which have been carried out, records and other documents.
The frequency of inspections will vary from workplace to workplace depending on the type of work carried out. The HSE prioritise risks, ensuring that the highest risk inspections are carried out first. More frequent inspections may be warranted if a workplace is changing rapidly or there are certain areas of a workplace which are considered high risk.
Following an inspector's visit
Following an inspection of your workplace there are several actions an inspector may take if you are found to not be in compliance with the law:
- Advice - this may be verbal or written, there is no cost associated with advice.
- Give you a notice of contravention - this document/letter explains the laws broken and how they've been broken, the NoC will also provide information on how to stop breaking the stated laws. The NoC is presented when you are in 'material breach' of the law, this means it is a serious breach of the law. When an NoC is presented, this results in a Fee for Intervention which we will talk about more later on in this post.
- Improvement notice - the improvement notice will explain what's wrong within your workplace and any corrective action which must be taken. The notice will also tell you how long you have to make the stated changes, this will be a minimum of 21 days. It is a criminal offence not to make the changes.
- Prohibition notice - If there is a serious risk of personal injury, either now or in the future such as lack of PPE when working with asbestos, you may be ordered to stop work entirely until it is made safe to carry on. It is again a criminal offence not to comply with the prohibition notice.
- Prosecution - In the worst cases, the Health and Safety Executive may prosecute you for your breaches in health and safety law. This will be done through the courts and if found guilty can lead to large fines or prison.
The HSE's Fee for Intervention (FFI)
I mentioned previously about the HSE's fee for intervention, this is charged when the law has been broken and the HSE have to intervene to rectify the issue. If the HSE decides to recover their costs from you, an hourly fee of £129p/h will be charged. This is to recover costs in helping you put the matter right, carrying out investigations and any enforcement action taken. You will be notified of any Fee for Intervention via invoice which must be paid within 30 days.