How to prepare for a health and safety inspection

Health and safety inspections are practices carried out by external regulators and authorities to ensure that businesses are abiding by legislation and are providing a safe environment for members of staff and members of the public where relevant.

Inspectors can call in for a visit at any time. As such, it’s important that businesses approach the health and safety of their business in the correct way, adhere to health and safety regulations, ensure that employees are safe from potential dangers, avoid potential legal disputes or compensation claims and operate as if an inspection is imminent at any time, meaning it should be within the very culture of day to day operations at all levels.

Businesses can act fittingly by providing evidence of statutory maintenance by clearly displaying fire risk assessments and storing all necessary documents in a human resource programme such as Atlas.

It’s also important that, while business premises should adhere to health and safety regulations, it could do more harm than good to change the environment to reflect an unrealistic sense of safety that has only been implemented in an attempt to dupe the inspector.

What is a health and safety inspection?

Typically conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or local authority, a health and safety inspection is an all-encompassing review of an area that not only looks into potential dangers but also assesses how the person in charge of the facility is controlling the safety and wellbeing of those within it.

A health and safety inspection will cover a wide range of different health and safety considerations within a working environment. For instance, construction sites are likely to be more hazardous than an office block, but with electrical devices, appliances, obstructions and a large number of people populating a single space, offices require the same level of meticulousness when it comes to ensuring the safety of everyone within it.

During a health and safety inspection, it’s likely that the inspector will:

  • Request evidence of statutory maintenance
  • Observe employee behaviour
  • Carry out a thorough inspection of the premises
  • Review incidents specific to a reported incident or subject campaign (i.e. dust)
  • Create a report which details their findings
  • Apply a Fee for Intervention (FFI) if they discover a breach of health and safety regulations

A health and safety inspection could lead to a number of outcomes. For example, if any issues are reported by the inspector, you can implement changes to your health and safety policy or the premises, and if you’re issued with an FFI but feel that it’s unfair, you can choose to appeal it.

A HSE inspector conducting a health and safety inspection of a workplace

Who does health and safety inspections?

Health and safety inspections are generally carried out by accredited inspectors on behalf of the HSE. Anyone who is assigned to conduct a health and safety inspection will have completed two years of National Examination Board in Occupational Health and Safety (NEBOSH) accredited training, and through this level of training and education, they will approach the inspection with experience and an extensive level of attention to detail.

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How often should health and safety inspections be carried out?

An important factor that all businesses should bear in mind is that the HSE won’t always give warning in advance over when they will carry out health and safety inspections. Generally speaking, an inspection will be carried out at least once annually, but it may be necessary for this process to happen more or less frequently depending on the nature of the business, the extent to the dangers it’s likely to pose and any changes to legislation that may occur.

If legislation changes, it could mean that you, as a business owner, are required to adapt your workplace or alter your health and safety policy. As such, it’s advisable that you prepare for an inspection as soon as there’s a change of legislation around workplace health and safety as it’s likely that the HSE will make routine inspections to ensure that the new rules are adhered to.

While you may dismiss this as being an excessive precaution, impromptu health and safety inspections from the HSE have occurred following a sudden change to rules. For example, during the coronavirus pandemic, the HSE announced that they would conduct spot checks of business premises. They also stated that they would force a business to close if they found them to be non-compliant with the recently established legislation in regards to COVID-19.

Additionally, a business may be required to review their health and safety protocols more frequently if they work for a client that insists upon it, or it could be a factor that works towards maintaining the validity of their business insurance policy or staying in line with accreditation from a professional body.

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Why should regular inspections of the workplace take place?

It is crucial that members of staff in any business are protected and that any potential dangers are identified, addressed and either completely removed or, if that’s not possible, highlighted to all members of staff. In some cases, a hazard can be catered for and employees can simply work around it. However, if it’s unavoidable and capable of causing significant damage, it needs to be dealt with immediately.

By facilitating regular inspections, business owners can ensure that their workplace and employees are safe while identifying and appropriately addressing any issues before they worsen. Putting an emphasis on health and safety also presents a willingness to operate in a compliant way. The HSE will issue significant fines or even enforce the closure of a business that is non-compliant. Due to this, it is vital that you act in a manner that shows transparency, accountability and an intention to abide by legislation and stay within their guidelines.

It may also be necessary for health and safety inspections to be carried out more frequently if your business falls into the high risk category. In certain industries, such as construction, manufacturing, agriculture, travel or defence, the heightened chance of danger often means that more regulation and auditing is required.

Someone filling in a HS / CQC inspection questionnaire and assessing garden leave

How to conduct a workplace safety inspection

If you’re expecting a health and safety inspection, you may be concerned that you will breach the HSE’s rules, potentially leading to the inspector issuing a fine or instructing you to close your business premises. However, Citation can perform a mock health and safety inspection to offer advice on necessary changes you should make to your business premises and help you to pass the real inspection.

Mock health and safety inspections are available to all Citation customers. To enquire about getting your business’s premises inspected along with all your health & safety needs, please fill in the form on this page.

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