When officers find a breach of the law that is of a relatively minor nature then they will offer advice on what to do to comply with the law and why. Sometimes, however, they may order improvements to be made and, if necessary, prosecute the business involved. Health and safety officers are trained to be consistent in their actions and to follow set procedures when they find something unsafe or against the law during a workplace inspection. At a national level consistency is promoted through the Health and Safety Executive and the Local Authority Liaison Committee. This helps to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and appropriately. If the officer decides formal enforcement action is necessary the following is taken into consideration:
- The degree of risk present
- The seriousness of the legal contravention
- Past record and general attitude to health and safety
- If there has been a blatant disregard of the law
- If there is sufficient evidence
Officers' formal enforcement powers include the issue of improvement or prohibition notices and prosecution. Improvement notices tell you what the problem is and how to put things right in a certain time. Prohibition notices tell you what the problem is and require you to stop doing something until things are put right. These are only issued if it is considered that there is a risk of serious personal injury. When notices are issued, a copy will be provided for employees. The law also requires that some notices be put in a register that is open to public inspection. Failure to comply with a notice is a serious offence and is likely to lead to prosecution. An appeal form is enclosed with each type of notice should you wish to appeal and your rights are clearly explained to you. In a few cases the health and safety officers may also decide to prosecute a company where they or any individual employee breaks the law. In this case health and safety law gives the courts considerable scope for fines and for improvements.