Advice for Employers
What happens if the Health and Safety Inspector finds something wrong with my premises?
Hopefully, you are aware of the Health and Safety Acts and Regulations by which employers like yourself must abide. If you are, carry on.
If an Inspector believes that you have contravened an Act or Regulation, they can do the following:
The prohibition notice usually takes immediate effect, although it can be deferred. It prohibits any work which in the opinion of the Inspectorate presents a risk of serious personal injury to employees and others. The prohibition notice remains effective until you have taken the necessary steps to put right those things considered wrong - in other words, until you have effectively controlled the risk. You can appeal to an Industrial Tribunal but the notice still remains effective until after the appeal is heard - and won.
Having a prohibition notice is bad news. There will be financial consequences due to work disruption as well as damage to your reputation. Both may be difficult to overcome. If you fail to comply, there is the possibility that you may be prosecuted.
The improvement notice gives you a period of time (the amount will be specified) to put matters right. This is only slightly better than having a prohibition notice. You are being offered the opportunity to rectify your contravention of a statutory requirement. You can appeal to an Industrial Tribunal - but this must be done within 21 days. If you make an appeal, the notice will be postponed until the terms have been confirmed or altered by the Tribunal. If, however, you fail to comply with the notice, there is the possibility that you may be prosecuted.
Being prosecuted for contravening a statutory requirement or failing to comply with a prohibition or improvement notice is not good for you or your business. It is something to be avoided at all costs. If the prosecution is successful - that is you are found guilty of contravening the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 or any health and safety statutes - you may be fined up to £5,000 and/or up to six months imprisonment.
If you have breached the general duties of the HSWA 1974 and the case appears in the Magistrates' Court, you may be fined up to £20,000. If you commit offences serious enough to be heard on indictment in a Crown Court, there are unlimited financial penalties (one company was fined £500,000) and up to two years imprisonment.
The most severe penalties are given for breaching Prohibition notices and in particular, where there have been fatalities.
The Health and Safety Inspectorate may seize, render harmless or destroy anything on your premises considered to be the cause of imminent danger or serious personal injury to employees and others.