Business inspection - health and safety

What to expect when a council health and safety inspector calls.

What can I expect when a council health and safety inspector calls?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has the national lead for health and safety policy whilst enforcement of health and safety law is split between HSE and Local Authorities depending upon the activity undertaken by the duty holder.

So both HSE and local authorities work towards the same strategy to achieve a sensible approach to health and safety compliance. This strategy can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website.

Health and Safety Executive - When a health and safety inspector calls (external website)

As a council, our approach to health and safety enforcement must follow the national code. More information on the national code can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website.

Health and Safety Executive - National Local Authority (LA) Enforcement Code (external website)

Generally, we visit premises including:

  • retail
  • wholesale distribution
  • residential care
  • consumer services including leisure
  • catering.

Right to enter premises

We have the right to enter any workplace without giving notice, although we may give notice where we think it is appropriate.

On a visit we would normally look at:

  • the workplace
  • the work activities
  • your management of health and safety
  • check you are complying with health and safety law.

We may offer guidance or advice to help you and may also talk to employees and their representatives.

If necessary, we may take photographs and samples and take action if there is a risk to health and safety which needs to be dealt with immediately.

Enforcing health and safety law

If we find a breach of health and safety law, we will decide what action to take. This will be based on the principles set out in our enforcement policy statement.

We will provide employees or their representatives with information about any action taken.

Enforcement action may include:

Informal action

Where the breach of the law is relatively minor, we may tell you as duty holder, for example, the employer or contractor, what to do to comply with the law and explain why.

We will, if asked, write to confirm any advice and to distinguish legal requirements from best practice advice.

Improvement notice

Where it is more serious, we may issue an improvement notice to tell you, the duty holder, to do something to comply with the law.

We will discuss the improvement notice and, if possible, resolve points of difference before serving it.

The notice will say:

  • what needs to be done
  • why
  • by when (at least 21 days).

We can take further legal action if the notice is not complied with within the specified time period.

Prohibition notice

Where an activity involves, or will involve, a risk of serious personal injury, we may serve a prohibition notice prohibiting the activity:

  • immediately or
  • after a specified time period.

not allowing it to be resumed until remedial action has been taken.

The notice will explain why the action is necessary. You, as duty holder, will be told in writing about the right of appeal to an Industrial Tribunal (see ‘Appeals’ below).


In some cases, we may consider that it is also necessary to initiate a prosecution. Decisions on whether to prosecute are informed by the principles in our enforcement policy statement.

Health and safety law gives the courts considerable scope for punishing offenders and deterring others. For example, a failure to comply with an improvement or prohibition notice, or a court remedy order, carries:

  • a fine of up to £20,000
  • six months’ imprisonment
  • both.

Unlimited fines and in some cases imprisonment may be imposed by higher courts.


You, as duty holder, will be told in writing about the right of appeal to an Industrial Tribunal when an improvement or prohibition notice is served. This is also explained on the reverse of the notice.

You will be told:

  • how to appeal, and given a form with which to appeal
  • where and within what period an appeal may be brought and
  • that the remedial action required by an improvement notice is suspended while an appeal is pending.

Information to employees or their representatives

During a visit, we will check that the arrangements, required by law, for consulting and informing employees or their safety representatives, about health and safety matters are in place.

Wherever possible, we will meet with employees during a visit, unless this is clearly inappropriate because of the purpose of the visit and they should always be given the opportunity to speak privately to us, if they so wish.

We will provide employees or their representatives with information about action which we have taken or proposes to take.

This information may include:

  • matters which we consider to be of serious concern
  • details of any enforcement action taken by us and
  • an intention to prosecute the business (but not before you as the duty holder are informed).

Depending on the circumstances, we may provide this information orally or in writing.


You can contact us by:


How to find out more about health and safety law, and how it is enforced

More information, including what businesses must do by law, can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website below:

Health and Safety Executive (external website)

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