Officers have substantial powers of enforcement and can visit at any reasonable time but their inspections are governed by guidance from the Health and Safety Executive. If the Health and Safety Inspector decides to take action following or during an inspection, it can come in a number of different forms – from an informal verbal warning to a prosecution.
In particular, officers have powers to serve enforcement notices or to give binding verbal directions that items of equipment must not be moved or used.
These notices generally require that certain things are done within a particular timeframe. The work will be spelt out on the notice, along with other information such as the right to appeal.
This form of notice is a serious matter and prevents something from happening – for example, the use of an electrical supply, item of equipment or the use of a premises. There is no upper limit on the fine that can be imposed if this notice is breached.
Appealing these notices does not take the ‘normal’ route of an appeal to the magistrates court, but rather to the Employment Tribunal Service. This usually has to be done within 21 days and the tribunal will either hold a hearing or consider written representations to decide whether to uphold, vary or quash the notice. Extensions to the 21 days are sometimes possible, but only if it has not been reasonably practicable to appeal in time.
Because of the time limits on appeals, if you should wish to appeal a notice you should seek the services of a specialist solicitor as soon as possible. Sometimes it is helpful to talk through the matter of the notice before taking a final decision and we are able to do this either on-line, by e-mail or telephone.
The penalties for non-compliance can be extremely high and we strongly recommend that you seek professional legal advice as soon as possible if enforcement action is threatened. Often, the right approach from the outset can avoid a notice being served or a prosecution being taken. Our health and safety lawyers have significant experience of dealing with a variety of health and safety enforcement situations and can provide representation in the magistrates and crown courts. We also work with a number of experienced barristers who can take the matter further if an appeal is needed.
Taking the matter though the court system is one of the ultimate enforcement powers available. The penalty for this is not only the fine that can follow if you are found guilty, but also the adverse publicity that can devastate a company. We guide you through the process and represent you in court as well as dealing with the press, radio and television as our lawyers are also trained to deal with the media.