Pinsent Masons says that in the past year (year end March 31 2014) there have been 4,097 inspections carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as a result of tip-offs from the public and whistleblowers. This is an 18% increase from the previous year, when there were 3,475 inspections based on tip-offs.
Number of tip-off led inspections by the Health and Safety Executive
The HSE receives intelligence from a number of sources about potential health and safety breaches. These can include: complaints by local residents and members of the public, customers and suppliers, whistleblowing reports from employees or union safety representatives.
Laura Cameron, aleading lawyer in the field of health and safety and Partner atPinsent Masons, comments: “The increase in tip-off based inspections means that businesses must be more prepared for surprise inspections by the HSE.”
“HSE, as a policy, will target directors for prosecution. They want to make health and safety a boardroom issue.”
“Vigilancein maintaining a high standard of health and safety in the workplace is paramount, as the HSE is now more likely to act on the tip-offs it receives. Identification of a minor infraction can reveal more systemic problems.”
“If the HSE decides that cost cutting was a primary reason for the breach of health and safety regulations they may look to prosecute senior management. All directors and senior managers must be aware of their health and safety obligations and ensure that they are carrying them out fully if they want to avoid falling foul of the law. In fact, the courts have recently gone as far as considering the pay and benefits received by directors when deciding what penalty to impose on a company.
“There should be no surprise when businesses with unaddressed health and safety issues receive a knock on the door from an HSE inspector, who may have been tipped-off by an employee or a customer.
Pinsent Masons warns that HSE are keen to ensure that businesses don't see health and safety as a cost-cutting option when bottom lines are under pressure.
Laura Cameron of Pinsent Masons concludes: “HSE has the resources to be very active in responding to tip-offs about businesses breaching regulations and so failingto comply with health and safety regulations in an attempt to cut costs could be a false economy.”