Last edited 08 Sep 2016

Health and safety inspector

Buildings can present a great number of risks to health and safety, both in construction and operation. There are many duties placed on those commissioning, designing, constructing, operating and demolishing buildings to control those risks.

The legislation affecting health and safety in the construction industry falls under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act through regulations such as the Control of Asbestos Regulations, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) and in particular the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, first introduced in 1994. (See Health and Safety and CDM for more information).

Health and safety in construction is usually enforced by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors, although lower risk works such as small-scale fit out works may be the responsibility of inspectors from the local authority.

HSE's Construction Division is part of the Field Operations Directorate (FOD) based in Bootle, Merseyside and includes operational units with more than a hundred inspectors across the country. s health and safety in the workplace are reduced, by providing advice and guidance on how to comply with the law, ensuring compliance, inspecting workplaces, investigating incidents, accidents and complaints and taking enforcement action.

Inspectors have the power to:

  • Visit sites without notice.
  • Enter premises.
  • Talk to employees.
  • Require co-operation and answers to questions.
  • Take written statements.
  • Issue notices requiring that improvements are made.
  • Stop processes where there is a risk of serious injury.
  • Prosecute a business or an individual for breaking health and safety law.
  • Offer guidance, education and support.

The subjects of the inspection can require proof of identity from inspectors, and may ask for written instructions and explanations. Businesses receiving improvement or prohibition notices have the right to appeal to an industrial tribunal, although the action required by a prohibition notice is not suspended pending the appeal.

Records must be kept of any reportable injury, disease or dangerous occurrence.

HSE must be notified in writing before construction starts if the work is expected to either:

  • last longer than 30 days; or
  • involve more than 500 person days of construction work.

In April 2013, HSE reported that one in four of the construction sites visited in Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk during a month-long inspection initiative failed health and safety checks.

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