In our previous blog we covered the fee for intervention (FFI) scheme and it’s importance in relation to a visit from an HSE inspector and a material breach was found.
The day has now arrived and an inspector from the Local Authority or the HSE will be arriving on site. In most circumstances the reason for the inspector’s visit is to see that health and safety standards are acceptable and that risks are being properly managed on your premises. We have provided 12 health and safety tips to use on the day to help to ensure the inspection goes as smoothly as possible.
Bear in mind that if the inspector is from the HSE and they discover a material breach you will be invoiced under the fee for intervention (FFI) for any time they spend on site. It’s therefore prudent to keep your discussions brief and to the point and swiftly provide documentary evidence when requested.
|1.||Make sure that there is someone available on site who knows about your health and safety arrangements, including the paperwork. Ideally this should be someone senior; inspectors don’t like being passed down to a junior member of staff to show them around, it makes it look like you aren’t taking them seriously.|
|2.||Brief your reception staff about who these inspectors are so that they are as helpful as possible and they know which manager to contact when they turn up. The worst thing that can happen is for your reception staff to tell the inspector that they don’t have an appointment, everyone’s very busy and they’ll have to come back later.|
|3.||Don’t leave inspectors hanging around in your workplace waiting; they’ll use the time wisely by starting to look for hazards. Devote some uninterrupted management time to the visit. If you’re dealing with the HSE, bear in mind that their time may become chargeable, so an efficient visit with prompt answers is the order of the day.|
|4.||Be polite, open and honest, whilst promoting the positives. Constantly replying “no we didn’t know about that”, or “no we haven’t ever implemented that” in response to questions about compliance, is likely to land you with an improvement notice, or worse. You should tell the inspector about positive initiatives. For example, if your policy is not up to date, you might tell the inspector how you have been discussing a new draft at your Health and Safety Committee. Tell them about new equipment you are purchasing, or training planned. Don’t wait to be asked.|
|5.||Don’t enter into lengthy discussions. If you disagree with the inspector and a short-reasoned explanation doesn’t do the trick, consider whether overall it might be cheaper to accept the observation. If it’s an HSE inspector, weigh up the cost of implementing their advice against the current fee of £154 per hour they will charge you if they put it in writing due to a material breach.|
|6.||Don’t be afraid to admit you haven’t done something, or that you misunderstood a requirement. If you do, and state that you will work through their list, you’ll reduce the likelihood of them coming back and adding to it.|
|7.||Be polite and friendly at all times and don’t do anything that might imply a bribe. It may make them think you have something to hide. Best to keep everything on friendly terms.|
|8.||Make sure that paperwork, such as policies, risk assessments, equipment inspection reports etc., is ready to hand and kept up to date so far as is possible. If you come across as badly disorganised, they’ll assume that you’re also disorganised about health and safety.|
|9.||Don’t prevent an inspector from speaking to employees. It’s obstruction and could put you in a difficult position with the inspector.|
|10.||If the inspector raises concerns about obvious safety hazards which you agree with, make it clear that you share their concerns and that you will be dealing with the matter immediately after the visit. If appropriate, you may want to take action there and then.
For example, if you had a machine which was not properly guarded, you could have the plug removed right away and have a notice placed prohibiting its use. If you did that it’s possible the inspector could decide against enforcement action. This would mean you could deal with the machine at a time to suit you – not with a notice hanging over your head. Remember it’s still down to the inspector if they give you a notice based on what they’ve seen. We will cover the two types of notices in the final blog.
|11.||Resist a notice being served as best you can. Notices can blight your organisation’s safety record, so you don’t want to receive them. Ways to avoid the serving of a notice include the kind of preemptive action outlined above or indicate by your actions during the inspection that you’re serious about getting things right . If you have doubts about the inspector’s demands however, you may be better to accept the notice and then appeal against it once you have some professional advice.|
|12.||Be careful not to accept everything that the inspector may indicate without putting a strong case forward. Not only could it be costly at your location, but in large organisations you might unwittingly create a commitment to enormous unnecessary expenditure when applied nationally. If you think that the inspector’s demands might be unreasonable, indicate that you need to consult others before you can confirm. This may risk an FFI invoice if an HSE inspector puts the request in writing but if the demands are expensive it may be worth taking the risk.|
The inspection is now complete and the Inspector will need to decide on the key findings from the inspection and the action to take. In the final blog of the series we will consider the possible outcomes from an inspection it’s impact.