When an inspector calls

words: Simon Bloxham, Safety for Business
Simon Bloxham

Many employers worry about having a visit from a health and safety inspector – but if you are running your business properly, there is no reason to be concerned about it.

The inspector’s job is to ensure that your place of business is a safe place for your staff to work and that you are following any relevant rules or regulations that apply to your type of business.

They aren’t hoping to ‘catch you out’, and often, if you are in breach of certain safety conditions, they will give you written notice of the problem and allow you a period of time to put things right.


Usually, they will only insist on immediate action or close down your operation and begin legal proceedings if you are breaching health or safety rules to such an extent that you are putting your employees or the public in danger.

Inspectors can enter your place of work at any time and don’t have to give you any notice but in practice, they might well inform you in advance of a routine HSE inspection.

During a visit, an inspector will check the health and safety management of the business and confirm that you have arrangements in place to inform workers of health and safety issues or news.

The inspector will also check that any laws relating to health and safety are being complied with and may want to inspect work activities and chat to employees.

Actions for breaching the rules

There are several ways to tackle a breach of health and safety rules. Inspectors can choose to take action in more than one of the following ways:

  • Informal action
  • Improvement notice
  • Prohibition notice
  • Prosecution

Informal action

Informal action is usually taken where there has been a minor breach of health and safety laws or rules. The inspector will explain what action needs to be taken and you can ask them to send you written confirmation of their advice.

Improvement notice

An improvement notice may be served for more serious breaches and it will spell out in detail what action needs to be taken and why.

If an employer does not comply within a stated time period, the inspector can begin legal action so make sure that you give the notice urgent attention.

Often, you will have been given a chance to discuss the notice with the inspector prior to it being served and if you think it will be difficult to comply with any action or to have things resolved within the time given, you should discuss this at the time. Don’t wait until the time period has expired and then hope to simply explain that it wasn’t possible to comply.

Prohibition notice

A prohibition notice will be served if an inspector finds any activity which could have or has led to serious personal injury.

The notice will either demand that the activity ceases immediately or at a specific time. You will be told about any right to appeal against the notice.


Finally, a prosecution is always a possibility.

Fee for intervention

Some would disagree, but I think the HSE needs to make money somehow, so what better way than to find something wrong that requires some documentation being written. Then you can charge.

The HSE has calculated the following costs whenever a contravention is found:

  • Inspection resulting in an email or a letter: £750 (or six hours’ work)
  • Inspection resulting in a notice being issued: £1,500 (a day and a half’s work)
  • To investigate an incident taking four days of a HSE Inspector’s time: £4,000
  • Full investigation – could be a lot

    Help is at hand

If anything in this article has given you cause for concern, then you can always talk to a safety professional at Safety for Business free of charge, simply by calling 08456 344164.

You are also entitled to a discount on our fees when we help you with your health and safety needs.

We can also visit you to see how you are doing when it comes to compliance. What you will get is a full and frank report that details just what you need to be compliant. This visit is free of charge apart from the cost of the travel to get to you. So go on, pick up the phone – what have you got to lose?

Tags: , , , , , , , ,