What do safety inspectors do?

Enforcing health and safety regulations at work is split between local councils and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). They enforce the same law, and their inspectors have the same powers. The only difference is that they inspect different premises.

Local council environmental health departments mainly inspect service sector premises, including:

  • most offices;
  • call centres;
  • hotels, restaurants and catering generally;
  • sports and leisure venues;
  • shops;
  • residential homes and nursing homes; and
  • banks and building societies.

You can find your local council's number in the telephone directory or on its website. Ask for the environmental health service or environmental enforcement officer.

HSE inspectors cover:

  • most public sector workplaces;
  • the health service, and other government offices;
  • manufacturing industries; and
  • construction sites.

Here is a full list of the different types of premises covered by the HSE and local authorities.

There are HSE offices across the UK. Find your nearest HSE office

Other enforcement agencies are also involved in the transport sector:

  • The Police will be involved in investigations into work-related deaths where there is an indication of manslaughter (or another serious general criminal offence).
  • The Office for Rail Regulation (ORR) deals with railway safety.
  • The British Transport Police (BTP) enforces law and order on the railways, including London Underground, Docklands Light Railway and Croydon Tramlink, and is also responsible for pursuing any possible criminal prosecutions following a rail accident.
  • The Maritime and Coastguard Agency enforces marine safety.
  • The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is responsible for aviation safety regulation.
  • The Driving Standards Agency deals with driver training and testing.
  • The Vehicle Operator Services Agency (VOSA) The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) deals with driver training and vehicle testing, and regulates operators of Large Goods Vehicles (LGV) and Passenger Services Vehicles (PSV). 

In addition, local fire and rescue authorities (LFRA) enforce fire safety legislation in most workplaces although the HSE is the enforcement authority for nuclear installations, Crown premises, construction sites and ships, and the local authority enforces fire safety in sports stands and grounds.

In the past few years, government cuts have meant a severe cutback in the visits made by safety inspectors, and many workplaces will receive no proactive (unannounced) visits from an inspector. Only workplaces operating in higher-risk areas such as construction, or those that have had an incident or track record of poor performance will face proactive inspections.

In 2013, the TUC produced the Time to Change bulletin (PDF, 707KB), guidance explaining why it is so important for workplaces to be inspected frequently. In 2014, the TUC produced the report Toxic, Corrosive and Hazardous: The government’s record on health and safety (PDF, 998KB), which expresses alarm at the drastic cuts to HSE inspections.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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