Deans of Colleges / Directors of Services

The HSE Inspector and Enforcement


HSE believes in firm but fair enforcement of health and safety law. To be informed by the principles of proportionality in applying the law and securing compliance; consistency of approach; targeting of enforcement action; transparency about how the regulator operates and what those regulated may expect; and accountability for the regulator's actions. 

The purpose and method of enforcement

  • The ultimate purpose of the enforcing authorities is to ensure duty holders manage and control risks effectively, thus preventing harm. The term 'enforcement' has a wide meaning and applies to all dealings between enforcing authorities and those on whom the law places duties (employers, the self-employed, employees and others).
  • The purpose of enforcement is to: 
    • ensure duty holders take action to deal immediately with serious risks;
    • promote and achieve sustained compliance with the law;
    • ensure that duty holders who breach health and safety requirements, and directors or managers who fail in their responsibilities, may be held to account, which may include bringing alleged offenders before the courts in England and Wales..

Enforcement is distinct from civil claims for compensation and is not undertaken in all circumstances where civil claims may be pursued, nor to assist such claims.

  • The enforcing authorities have a range of tools at their disposal to secure compliance with the law and to ensure a proportionate response to criminal offences. Inspectors may offer duty holders information, and advice, both face to face and in writing. This may include warning a duty holder that in the opinion of the inspector, they are failing to comply with the law. Where appropriate, inspectors may also serve improvement and prohibition notices, withdraw approvals, vary licence conditions or exemptions, issue formal cautions1 (England and Wales only), and may prosecute (or report to the Procurator Fiscal with a view to prosecution in Scotland).
  • Giving information and advice, issuing improvement or prohibition notices, and withdrawal or variation of licences or other authorisations are the main methods which inspectors use to achieve the broad aim of dealing with serious risks, securing compliance with health and safety law and preventing harm. A prohibition notice stops work in order to prevent serious personal injury. Information on improvement and prohibition notices should be made publicly available.
  • Every improvement notice contains a statement that in the opinion of an inspector an offence has been committed. Improvement and prohibition notices, and written advice, may be used in court proceedings.
  • Formal cautions and prosecution are important ways to bring duty holders to account for alleged breaches of the law. Where it is appropriate to do so in accordance with this policy, enforcing authorities should use one of these measures in addition to issuing an improvement or prohibition notice.