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Health & safety investigations

Your business might be subject to a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation if there is a reportable injury at your workplace, if a disease is traced to your place of work, if dangerous practices are reported or if concerns are raised by employees or the public.

For example, a HSE accident investigation could be launched in response to someone being injured whilst working for you, whether on or offsite. Health and safety investigations need to be taken very seriously because if your business is found to have breached regulations or has practices that are not considered to be compliant, you could face significant fines, or even imprisonment.

Health and safety investigations have specific goals, which are:

  • To determine the causes of the reported incident
  • To share lessons learned by what happened
  • To identify the actions or measures that need to be taken by the business to prevent the incident from recurring
  • To gather evidence if a prosecution is potentially being brought.

Not all reports will result in HSE investigating accidents and incidents; they will only investigate serious work-related incidents or illnesses, in line with their internal criteria.


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The HSE investigation procedure

The HSE incident investigation procedure may be carried out by a single inspector, or a whole team of inspectors, depending on the size of the complaint or enquiry. There may also be other agencies involved e.g. police, if the incident led to a work-related death.

The HSE investigation will involve the individual or team:

  • Gathering and establishing the facts about what happened. This may involve examining the workspace and equipment, reading reports and witness statements
  • Identifying the causes (both immediate and underlying) of the incident and determining what lessons can be learned from what happened
  • Taking action to prevent recurrence of the incident
  • Identifying whether any breaches of legislation occurred
  • Taking appropriate enforcement action, if required.

The health and safety investigation team will decide whether enforcement action needs to be taken and the nature of this. If they believe that prosecution may be necessary, due to breaches in legislation that were discovered during their investigation, you will be notified at a later date.

How long does a HSE investigation take?

The length of time that a HSE investigation takes will depend very much on the circumstances involved. A smaller investigation at one site would usually be carried out within a few hours, but a complex situation might require days, or even weeks of investigation in order for the enquiries to be satisfied.

Once the on-site investigations are complete, there will be a full report prepared and you will be contacted by HSE in due course with their findings and notice of any further actions needed or enforcement delivered. The time it takes for the investigation to be completed can vary widely, depending on the specifics of the situation and can range from a few days after the site visit, to several months if a prosecution is involved.

What to expect after a HSE investigation

If your business has been subject to HSE investigating accidents and incidents in your workplace, after the inspector, or team of inspectors, has been on site, they will complete a report on what the investigation found, and HSE will decide if any further action is required.

If serious issues are found during the investigation which the HSE believe puts people at immediate risk, they may take enforcement action there and then e.g. temporarily ordering the closure of the workplace until it can be made safe.

Otherwise, enforcement decisions will be made based on the conclusions of the inspectors and you will be notified if further action is needed.

If the HSE is considering whether you should be prosecuted as a result of the investigation, you will be notified once this decision has been made.

HSE investigation outcomes may include advice on how to improve certain current practices, an order for certain measures to be taken (an improvement notice) within a given period of time or, if the breaches of health and safety law are considered to be material, prosecution.

If you’re concerned about the potential outcome of a HSE investigation into your business, we can offer expert advice and support. Call our team on 0161 696 6250.

HSE investigation costs

Businesses that are found to be in breach of health and safety laws are required to pay for the time it takes for the inspectors to investigate the issues and help rectify them. This is called fee for intervention (FFI) and is currently based on an hourly rate of £157. The HSE will invoice your company after the event and you are obligated to pay the invoice within 30 days. 

Do you need legal assistance with a HSE incident investigation?

As experienced solicitors with in-depth knowledge of HSE investigation guidance and the legal steps that your company needs to take, we are ideally placed to offer specialist support to any business facing this kind of issue.

It is really important that any business which is faced with a HSE investigation has access to expert legal advice to help them get the best possible outcome from the situation. Our experienced team can help. Get in touch today to find out more, by calling 0161 696 6250.

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