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Health and Safety Executive - how and when do they investigate?

View profile for Brea Carney-Jones
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Is your business the subject of a Trading Standards investigation?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a regulator which aims to prevent workplace death, injury or ill health.

The HSE investigate reportable injuries, diseases, dangerous occurrences and concerns raised by workers, the public or others to help improve health and safety standards.

Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR), duty holders must report certain serious workplace accidents, occupational diseases and specified dangerous occurrences (near misses) to the HSE.

The HSE does not investigate everything that is reported to them, only the most serious work-related incidents, injuries or cases of ill health. It does, however, consider all health and safety concerns and makes risk-based decisions when deciding what actions to take.

When investigating, the HSE will gather and establish the facts; identify immediate and underlying causes and lessons to be learned; take actions to prevent reoccurrence; identify any breaches of legislation; and consider appropriate enforcement.

The level of investigation carried out by the HSE depends on the seriousness of the incident or complaint. An investigation may range from an enquiry by a single inspector about a minor incident or a complaint to a large enquiry involving a team of inspectors. It is also important to be aware that other agencies may be involved, for example, the police and a coroner where there has been a work-related death.

Following an investigation, the HSE has a range of enforcement powers including:

  • Providing information and advice face-to-face or in writing
  • Serving notices on duty holders
  • Withdrawing approvals
  • Varying licences, conditions or exemptions
  • Issuing simple cautions; and
  • Prosecution

Duty holders have a right to challenge or appeal any enforcement action taken by the HSE and the appropriate route to take in this respect is dependent on the type of enforcement action taken.

Duty holders therefore have significant responsibilities to ensure that their business is compliant with health and safety regulations and to put measures in place to reduce health and safety risks as far as possible. A failure to do so can have serious consequences for the duty holder and their business.

If you have any concerns regarding the compliance of your business; a complaint that has been made; reporting an incident to the HSE; or an ongoing investigation by the HSE, our HSE specialist lawyers are on hand to assist. Please call 0175 321 6399 and we will be pleased to assist with any queries.

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