HSE Investigation Solicitors
If your business is being investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the expert solicitors at JMW can assist you at every stage of the proceedings.
HSE investigations can be serious and have damaging consequences; however, we have a wealth of varied experience in helping businesses of all kinds and sizes to successfully avoid fines and prosecution. JMW's team has extensive knowledge of this area of the law and a track record of success in defending individuals and businesses during these investigations.
To speak to a solicitor if you are facing an HSE investigation, contact us today by calling 0345 872 6666. Alternatively, fill in our online enquiry form with your details and we will get back to you.
How JMW Can Help
It is vital that you seek legal advice and representation as soon as you are informed that you are subject to an HSE investigation. The solicitors at JMW can represent you during each stage of the investigation process, including assistance with:
- Risk assessments and audits;
- Advice on avoiding a prosecution;
- Attendance at HSE interviews under caution;
- Data and document disclosure issues;
- Defending a criminal prosecution at the Magistrates or Crown Court; and
- Representation at a coroner's inquest, in the event of a work-related death
- Representation at public inquiries
Penalties for breaching health and safety guidelines can be severe, including fines and imprisonment. You should seek expert legal advice in order to protect your position. Our team is able to advise firms in any sector on the relevant health and safety laws. We also have particular expertise in the haulage and construction industries, where work-related incidents are unfortunately all too common.
We know how disruptive and intrusive health and safety investigations can be, and we can advise you to ensure you make the right decisions. The team regularly represents companies and individuals across the country, including in Manchester, Liverpool and London, in relation to the following:
- Breach of duty of employer towards employees and non-employees;
- Breach of duty of self-employed to others;
- Breach of duty of employees at work;
- Breach of Health and Safety regulations;
- Secondary liability;
- Corporate manslaughter; and
- Breach of food safety and food hygiene regulations.
As a full-service law firm, the specialist team can also draw upon expertise in other departments to ensure clients can access the most appropriate specialists in each case.
Types of HSE Notice
Inspectors who visit work premises as part of a health and safety investigation have the authority to serve three different kinds of notices. These are:
- A prohibition notice ordering the duty holder to stop activity immediately
- An improvement notice specifying remedial action and giving the duty holder a date by which they must complete the action
- A Crown notice, which is issued under the same circumstances that would justify a statutory prohibition or improvement notice, but can only be served on Crown organisations, such as government departments, the Forestry Commission and the prison service
Being served with a notice can have an obvious, direct impact on your business, so seeking expert legal advice as soon as possible to help clarify and defend your position is highly recommended.
Assistance with HSE Audits
If you would like to begin conducting health and safety audits for your company, we can help to make sure your audits are correct, comprehensive and efficient. Failing to meet industry standards on health and safety is not only a bad business decision, it is also illegal and can have very serious consequences.
When conducting audits, it is essential that you seek help from those with a thorough knowledge of the relevant legislation in your sector, such as the expert solicitors at JMW.
Regular audits are the most effective way of preventing health and safety breaches. It can be surprising for firms to find that there are so many risks in their workplace that they had not considered, but even the smallest changes in business practices can result in a variety of new dangers that must be addressed.
Our team can assist you in conducting efficient audits by:
- Comprehensively assessing your workplace for risks
- Ensuring you are up to date with the latest health and safety regulations for your sector
- Helping identify future risks
- Putting stringent guidelines in place to protect employees and visitors
- Reviewing accident records
- Reviewing trading practices
- Dealing with enforcement notices
Having regular health and safety audits works on two levels:
- It can prevent accidents from occurring in the first place
- It can protect your business from prosecution should the worst happen
If it can be shown that you had stringent health and safety measures in place, it is unlikely you will be vulnerable to legal action if an employee is injured while at work.
What is the HSE?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the governing body responsible for ensuring businesses comply with health and safety law. The body has far-reaching powers that allow it to investigate alleged wrongdoing and poor practices in a workplace before bringing charges. You can find more information at the organisation's website.
What are the HSE's responsibilities?
The HSE is responsible for ensuring health and safety standards are maintained across all workplaces. Should a company breach its guidelines, the body’s powers range from giving advice and warnings to issuing prohibition notices, which can result in cautions, prosecutions or severe fines.
The HSE can:
- Conduct inspections and investigations
- Hold interviews
- Serve improvement and prohibition notices
- Enforce its decisions
- Prosecute in the criminal courts
- Oblige the subject of an enquiry to disclose information
- Withdraw a company’s approvals
- Issue formal cautions
- Make changes to a business’s licences or exemptions
It is therefore vital that you seek legal advice and assistance as soon as you have been informed that you are the subject of an HSE investigation.
What happens during an HSE investigation?
During an investigation by the HSE, businesses can expect a thorough examination of their health and safety practices to ensure compliance with the law. The HSE's intention during this type of investigation is to gather evidence - whether about general safety practices or about a specific incident - and determine whether there is scope for enforcement action against a business. If further action is required, the HSE might work with other agencies to carry out its investigation and determine an appropriate course of action.
An investigation will usually proceed as follows:
- Notification: Businesses will typically be informed when an investigation is underway, and they will receive a notification outlining the reasons for the investigation. This may be in response to a workplace incident, a complaint, or as part of the HSE's routine inspection activities.
- Site visit: HSE inspectors will visit the workplace to assess the health and safety conditions. The organisation may send a single inspector or a team. They may conduct interviews with employees, investigate current practices, review documentation, and inspect equipment and facilities.
- Document review: Inspectors will request documents related to health and safety, including risk assessments, training records, safety policies, and incident reports. Businesses need to provide these documents promptly and accurately, and legal support can help you to comply.
- Interviews: HSE inspectors may interview employees, management, and other relevant parties to gather information about the workplace's health and safety practices. You may be asked to attend an interview or, under some circumstances, be compelled to attend.
- Identifying issues: If the inspectors identify any breaches of health and safety regulations, they will inform the business about these issues. The severity of the breaches will determine the course of action.
- Enforcement: Depending on the seriousness of the breaches, the HSE may take various enforcement actions. These can include issuing notices as described above, or even initiating prosecutions.
- Appeals: While this will not always apply, businesses may have the right to appeal any enforcement actions taken by the HSE if they believe them to be unfair or unjust. Appeals are typically heard by an independent tribunal, but this may be part of the overall process in your case.
Businesses are encouraged to cooperate fully with the HSE during the investigation. This includes addressing identified issues promptly and taking corrective actions to improve health and safety. Once any issues are addressed, businesses should work towards full compliance with health and safety regulations to prevent future incidents and ensure the well-being of their employees.
The team at JMW can support you in a number of ways to meet your health and safety obligations in the workplace. Contact us today for support, whether you are under investigation or simply want to ensure compliance with HSE directives.