The Health and Safety Executive is sharply increasing the number of tip-off led inspections that it launches against businesses, says Pinsent Masons, the international law firm.
Pinsent Masons says that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) undertook 3,475 inspections based on tip-offs in the last year (year end March 31 2013). This is a 43% increase on the 2,429 inspections undertaken in the previous 12 months.
Pinsent Masons explains that HSE receives intelligence on possible Health & Safety breaches from a number of sources. These can include:
- Whistleblowing reports from employees or union representatives
- Complaints by local residents
- Customers and suppliers
- Insurance reports on workplace incidents
Pinsent Masons says that businesses need to be more prepared for surprise inspections by HSE, and reminds businesses that HSE is now able to charge businesses for inspections if breaches of regulations are found.
Simon Joyston-Bechal, specialist Health & Safety lawyer and Partner at Pinsent Masons, comments: “Businesses need to be even more vigilant about maintaining high standards of Health & Safety, as HSE is now considerably more likely to act on tip-offs it receives.”
“Businesses with unaddressed Health & Safety issues should not be surprised if an HSE inspector knocks on their door, after being tipped off by an employee or customer.”
“It’s also important to remember that the HSE can demand hefty fees for their time if they find breaches of Health & Safety regulations.”
Number of tip-off led inspections by the Health & Safety Executive
Pinsent Masons warns businesses that the increasing number of tip-off led investigations by HSE means they cannot afford to cut back on their Health & Safety budgets as they attempt to lower costs.
Comments Simon Joyston-Bechal: “Health & Safety can sometimes be seen as an easy area for cost-cutting when bottom lines are under pressure. HSE knows this, and is clearly becoming more proactive in rooting out any regulatory breaches as soon as it has evidence.”
“If HSE decides that cost-cutting was a primary reason for a breach of Health & Safety regulations, it is more likely to pursue prosecution of senior management and sentences are likely to be higher if a conviction is secured.”
“HSE’s new approach has made cost-cutting in Health & Safety even riskier than in the past. All directors and senior managers need to understand their obligations for Health & Safety and the proactive steps that the criminal law requires them to take to stay out of jail.”