Bosses beware! New HSE guidance on complaining about workplace safety

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published new information on what an employee can do should they be dissatisfied with safety in their workplace.

Their website explains the process of how to report a complaint to the HSE and how they will assess and investigate it. It discusses how workers should initially speak to their employers to try to resolve the issue; and/or contact work/safety representatives.

If problems cannot be resolved in-house, workers are now able to complete an online Workplace Health and Safety Complaint Form.

Once a complaint is received it is assessed and allocated one of the following categories:

Red = Serious Risk. Will be followed up within 24 hours or passed to an inspector for on-site investigation

Amber = Significant Risk. Will be followed up within 5 days

Green = Low Risk. Will not be followed-up by HSE

Complaints concerning major hazard industries (e.g. offshore, nuclear or major chemical sites) will be assessed by an inspector.

Formal enforcement action may occur following an inspection, and can take various forms. An inspector may serve a prohibition notice telling the duty holder to stop an activity immediately; or they may serve an improvement notice which specifies remedial action, giving the duty holder a date by which they must complete the action.

Ultimately, the Health and Safety Executive has the power to prosecute, and in a lower court health and safety offences can attract fines of up to £20,000 and 12 months imprisonment. In a higher court however, the potential fines are unlimited, and prison sentences of up to 2 years can be handed out.

Clearer guidance, and a streamlined complaints procedure (plus potential stiff penalties for non-compliance), means that workplace health and safety management is more important than ever. The new guidance and complaint form can be found here

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