Health & Safety Inspectors’ priorities

You can’t predict when someone will arrive at your doorstep to do a Health & Safety inspection. Inspectors have the right to enter your premises without permission or notice.

But Ellis Whittam has seen this year’s checklist for inspectors so we can predict what they’ll check for. And if you know what they’re going to inspect the chances are you’ll pass with flying Health & Safety colours!

Knock-knock! Unannounced Health & Safety inspector arrives… Are you ready?

No? Then let’s get you a step ahead of the inspectors by running through their 2017 checklist of things to look at…

In an effort to reduce death and injury numbers Health & Safety inspectors are this year being asked to focus on these priority areas within organisations:

  1. Falls from height – work on or next to fragile roofs and materials
  2. Health risks – exposure to respirable silica dust
  3. Duty to manage asbestos
  4. Construction

How will this affect you?

Do your work activities fall within any of their focus areas?

If yes, don’t be surprised to receive a visit from a Health & Safety inspector some time soon!

You can be certain special attention will be given to the listed areas. An inspector will either:

  • focus solely on the topic areas, or
  • as part of a routine inspection look at all areas of risk but with greater emphasis on the focus topics

Watch out there’s always an inspector about!

But don’t be fooled into thinking that if your primary activities are not listed you’ll be saved from an inspector’s visit. Unfortunately, this will not be the case.

It is therefore vital you make sure your organisation keeps on top of its Health & Safety management particularly given the tougher sentences now being handed out.

What will inspectors look for?

A Health & Safety Executive or local authority inspector wants to check your level of compliance with relevant Health & Safety regulations. But they will focus on:

1  Falls from height
This includes work on or next to fragile roofs and materials. Many workplaces have fragile roofs and skylights etc.

The inspector will check these areas. You will be questioned on how repair and maintenance such as gutter cleaning is done.

2  Health risks
Dust containing harmful respirable crystalline silica (RCS) can be generated during minor construction work. For example, during block or granite cutting, chasing brickwork and cutting concrete floors.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) provide detailed guidance on controlling this dust.

Inspectors will look for any work in your organisation that could create RCS dust. If necessary they will want to see adequate controls in place and HSE guidance followed.

3  Duty to manage asbestos
Does your organisation occupy buildings built before 2000? If so they may contain asbestos.

Inspectors will check whether:

  • the risk of asbestos has been assessed
  • an asbestos survey has been done
  • a management plan and necessary monitoring is in place

Do you have any minor construction work going on? If so they will also:

  • check whether any building fabric has been breached
  • want to see a proper asbestos survey and effective controls in place

4  Construction
The number of fatal and major injuries remains high in the construction sector which includes building construction, trades and civil engineering.

Focus in this sector is on exposure to:

  • asbestos
  • silica dust
  • paint and diesel exhaust fumes
  • dust, fumes, vapour or gas

Other key areas in construction are dermatitis risk, manual handling, and noise and vibration.

What can inspectors do?

An inspector will assess how well your organisation manages its Health & Safety risks. If they find that risks are not being adequately managed then improvements will have to be made to do so.

Inspectors have strong enforcement powers but their use must be proportionate to the level of risk and follow enforcement policy. Inspectors can give verbal and written advice, Improvement Notices, Prohibition Notices and/or prosecute.

Under the Fee for Intervention (FFI) scheme the HSE can recover its inspection, investigation or enforcement costs from you.

Tips to stay one step ahead

Be prepared…

If your building was built before 2000 make sure you’ve considered the risk of asbestos in it. Owners or landlords may need to invest in an asbestos survey and act on its results.

You are responsible for engaging a suitable contractor. Before employing contractors for work at height or minor building works make sure you check their:

  • risk assessments
  • method statements
  • insurance
  • professional membership
  • references

If you generate respirable crystalline silica dust make sure you follow the HSE guidance and effectively control it.

Now you know what the inspector will look for there’s no excuse for getting caught with your pants down!

ONLINE TRAINING | IOSH Safety for Executives and Directors

Looking to improve your understanding of health and safety, demonstrate your commitment to employee wellbeing, and protect your business from prosecution? Learn essential skills in effective risk management, including how to create a COVID-secure workplace, with this one-day course for business owners, senior managers and directors.

15th December 2020 | 09:30 – 16:30

Director of Health & Safety Services

Nick Wilson

Health and safety should be a priority for any business but ensuring compliance can often feel like a daunting task. We’re here to help you turn complex regulations into sensible, proportionate controls.

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