Is the HSE warning firms to get their houses in order?

At the beginning of the year, we shared the news that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had begun its search for a new Director of Legal Services.

This was interesting because the role was a new position that had been created at the organisation following the HSE’s Chief Executive-led review. At the time, the HSE said the new role was important as it would contribute directly to public confidence in the organisation and the wider justice system. The role is of particular interest to businesses because it has been created with a view to reviewing the HSE’s enforcement activities and leading its prosecution capability.

It has been speculated by the press that, following this appointment, we are likely to see a rise in HSE prosecutions of businesses that fail to comply with Health and Safety law.

The HSE has also now launched a new course, which is due to run in April, called HSE Inspectors’ Guide to Improvement and Prohibition Notices.

The course costs £525 and is designed for Health and Safety professionals, business owners or senior managers responsible for managing and controlling risks or – as the HSE puts it – ‘anyone who might have a formal notice put in their hands by an HSE inspector’.

The HSE says the workshop is a rare opportunity to understand the regulator by seeing the world through an inspector’s eyes. Prospective attendees are told they will learn why, when and how the HSE takes formal enforcement action, how to influence formal HSE decisions and how to respond to receipt of a notice.

Those of us in the industry may question why this course has been put together. On the surface it would appear that attendees will simply be told that they could be prosecuted if they are not complying with Health and Safety regulations.

This would seem rather self-explanatory and we suspect that the people who are minded to attend a course like this are probably going to be those who are already managing their health and safety requirements well.

So, this has led us to wonder whether there is more to this than first meets the eye. We wholeheartedly believe that this is an example of the HSE doing its best to help firms put health and safety standards at the heart of their operations and we applaud that. However, we also think that firms would be wise to see this as a warning.

We honestly don’t think the HSE can’t make it much clearer that they are coming after firms that are flouting the law. It has created a new position specifically to lead its prosecution capability and is running courses to tell firms exactly what its inspectors want to see from organisations if they don’t want to be prosecuted.

So, maybe now is a good time to remind ourselves what prosecutions can mean for organisations. If a firm is successfully prosecuted for a Health and Safety breach its operations may be suspended and it could face fines ranging from hundreds of pounds to millions of pounds. Company owners and directors may also end up having to pay court costs and fines and, in some instances, may even receive prison sentences.

The truth is about 97% of businesses will never fully get on top of their Health and Safety responsibilities which is why we offer a range of services to help businesses fulfil their legal requirements.

Our services include fire risk assessments, construction health and safety inspections and audits and asbestos services. Our site inspection service alone reduces, if not eliminates, the possibility of the HSE issuing notices for enforcement.

We also act as CDM consultants and as a firm’s retained health and safety consultant. Firms who take up our retained health and safety service can rest assured that they will become fully health and safety compliant and as a result protected from prosecutions, fines and prison sentences. We do all the hard work for them without them having to shoulder the cost of a full-time employee.

To protect your company and your team from Health and Safety breaches and the risk of prosecution visit https://acornhealthandsafety.co.uk/ or contact us at info@acornhealthandsafety.co.uk or on 01604 930380.

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