23 Apr 2021

When an inspector calls during the Covid-19 pandemic

Health and Safety Inspectors from HSE and local authorities are carrying out unannounced inspections of workplaces to check compliance with Covid-19 regulations, as well as wider health and safety law. Responsibility for enforcing health and safety is divided between the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local councils depending on the main activity of the business. For many business owners, the idea of a health and safety inspection can be daunting so it’s important to know what to expect.

Unannounced inspections are not uncommon and inspectors can visit businesses at any reasonable time. The visit could be the result of a complaint from a customer, an employee or even another business. In relation to Covid-19 the enforcing authority may have been notified of a case or an outbreak of the infection through the track and trace system. Inspectors are empowered to check compliance with the legal requirement for a Covid-19 Risk Assessment, as well as practical measures such as social distancing, provision of hand sanitiser and management of cleaning arrangements.

As a part of an inspection or investigation health and safety inspectors have the power to question employees, take photographs and copies of relevant paperwork as well as inspect machinery and substances. They can also seize equipment or goods if these are deemed to be dangerous. If breaches of health and safety law are identified the inspector can provide verbal advice or formally write to the business owner. In the case of HSE inspectors a Notice of Contravention (NoC) may be sent and if a material breach of health and safety law is identified, the employer is liable for a fee for intervention of £160 per hour. 

If serious breaches are found health and safety inspectors can serve statutory notices as follows:

Improvement notice

If breaches are identified a business has a minimum of 21 days to rectify the shortcomings highlighted in the notice.

Prohibition notice

Where there is an imminent risk of injury or ill-health, a business can be ordered to take remedial steps immediately, which may include stopping the use of machinery, equipment or premises until measures have been taken to mitigate the risk.If the breaches are serious enough, a criminal prosecution can be brought against the business or individuals. 

At a time when many businesses have faced huge challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is critical for businesses take steps to comply with health and safety law. This is where Sentinel Safety Solutions Ltd can help. We have experience of enforcing health and safety legislation, as well as working with a wide range of businesses throughout the UK and abroad. Please get in touch on 01527 833834 or complete a contact form.