Enforcing health and safety

Our Environmental Health Team inspects business premises and investigates accidents or complaints. We have enforcement powers under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to help us protect the health, safety and well-being of business employees and members of the public.

Our emphasis is on helping businesses to avoid significant risks by providing advice and guidance. We will use our enforcement powers to deal with those who put others at risk, particularly where they deliberately flout the law. Our enforcement powers are detailed in Section 20 of the Health and Safety At Work Act.

Health and safety improvement notices

Where the breach of the law is serious or persistent, we may issue an improvement notice to tell the duty holder to do something to comply with the law. We 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.

We will give you at least 21 days in which to resolve the problems. This also allows time to appeal the decision to an industrial tribunal if you want. If the problems are not resolved, we can take further legal action.

Health and safety prohibition notices

Section 22 of the Health and Safety at Work Act gives us the power to issue a prohibition notice where an activity involves, or will involve, a risk of serious personal injury. We can prohibit the activity immediately, or after a specified period, where you cannot resume the activity until you have taken remedial action.

The notice will explain why the action is necessary. We will tell you in writing about the right of appeal to an industrial tribunal.

Seizure of objects or substances that could cause danger or personal injury

Section 25 of the Health and Safety at Work Act gives us the power to seize or destroy an object or substance if it is a cause of imminent danger or serious personal injury. This also relates to any plant and/or equipment on the premises, which we want to make safe by removing fuses or taking possession of keys to plant rooms etc.

If we decide to use our seizure powers, we will serve a notice soon after the event and tell you what action we have taken and why.

Enforcement decisions

Our decision on whether to prosecute will be informed by our own internal procedures and enforcement policy, The Code for Crown Prosecutors and the Enforcement Management Model.

Health and safety penalties

Health and safety law gives the courts considerable scope for punishing offenders and deterring others. For example, failing 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.

Contact details

Environmental Health team

If you have an enquiry about environmental health, send a message to the Environmental Health team

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