Health and safety at work

Inspections and action

Although we try to inspect premises at suitable times, we have the authority to enter any workplace without giving notice.

On an inspection the inspector will want to see:

  • The workplace
  • Work activities
  • Management practices and procedures.

He or she may:

  • Talk to employees, their representatives or other people connected with your business activity
  • Take photographs
  • Take samples.

If we find a problem

If an inspector finds a problem or a breach of legislation, he or she may deal with it in one of several ways. The action taken will depend on the severity of the breach.

Inspectors will tell employees or their representatives about any action taken or give them information to keep them informed about matters affecting their health, safety and welfare.


The actions an inspector can take are:

Information and advice

An inspector can give you information and advice on how to comply with regulations and additional good practice. They can give leaflets, website links, translation of relevant information and further guidance.


If the breach of the law is relatively minor, the inspector can give you a face-to-face or written warning. The inspector will write to confirm any advice and to distinguish between legal requirements and advice on best practice.

Improvement notices

An improvement notice will tell you to do something to comply with the law. The inspector will discuss the notice with you and will try to resolve issues before serving it. The notice will explain what you need to do, why you need to do it and by when. You must either comply with the notice or appeal within 21 days to an industrial tribunal.

Prohibition notices

Where a work activity involves or will involve a serious risk to personal injury, the inspector may serve you with a prohibition notice stopping you doing the work activity immediately or after a specified time period.

You will not be allowed to resume the activity until you have taken action to correct the problem. You can appeal to an industrial tribunal against a prohibition notice, but you must not restart the work activity until after the tribunal. An inspector may also decide to make the workplace safe, for example by isolating dangerous electrics.

Formal cautions

An inspector can issue a formal caution.  A formal caution is a statement by an inspector that says you have committed an offence for which you could be prosecuted and convicted. You must accept the caution in writing. An inspector may offer a formal caution instead of prosecution.


We will prosecute when other actions such as an improvement notice have failed or where the inspector believes the danger to employees and visitors to the premises is so great that you should have been aware of it and taken steps to avoid it.

Powers of inspectors

Our inspectors have powers (under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974) to:

  • Seize your premises or work equipment as evidence for a prosecution or to prevent the problem getting worse (and destroy if necessary)
  • Order areas to be left undisturbed
  • Take measurements, photographs and recordings
  • Take samples and take away, and carry out tests on, articles and substances that appear to have caused (or are likely to cause) danger
  • Order you to give them all relevant documents and inspect and take copies of those documents
  • Ask you and any of your employees, questions and expect you and them to sign a declaration of the truth of the answers
  • Order you to give them facilities and assistance to carry out their inspection.

Report accidents at work online

Fatalities and major injuries must be reported by phoning the Incident Contact Centre or using the HSE’s out of hours service. All other accidents can be reported via the Health and Safety Executive website.

Telephone: 0845 300 9923