Types of enforcement action that Health & Safety inspectors can take include:
Where the breach of the law is relatively minor, the inspector may tell the dutyholder, for example the employer or contractor, what to do to comply with the law, and explain why. The inspector will, if asked, write to confirm any advice, and to distinguish legal requirements from best practice advice.
Where the breach of the law is more serious, the inspector may issue an improvement notice to tell the dutyholder to do something to comply with the law. The inspector will discuss the improvement 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 the remedial action will be at least 21 days, to allow the dutyholder time to appeal to an Industrial Tribunal if they so wish (see ‘Appeals’ below). The inspector can take further legal action if the notice is not complied with within the specified time period.
Where an activity involves, or will involve, a risk of serious personal injury, the inspector may serve a prohibition notice prohibiting the activity immediately or after a specified time period, and not allowing it to be resumed until remedial action has been taken. The notice will explain why the action is necessary. The dutyholder will be told in writing about the right of appeal to an Industrial Tribunal (see ‘Appeals’ below).
In some cases the inspector may consider that it is also necessary to initiate a prosecution. Health and safety law gives the courts considerable scope for punishing offenders and deterring others. For example, a failure to comply with an improvement or prohibition notice, or a court remedy order, carries a fine of up to £20 000, or six months’ imprisonment, or both. Unlimited fines and in some cases imprisonment may be imposed by higher courts.