Health and Safety Authority Inspectors carry out inspections across all work sectors and work activities which come under the relevant local legislation.
Some work places are pre-selected for inspection from data bases, based on risk and previous history with the Safety Authority e.g. has a particular employer any outstanding enforcement actions due for compliance with, has this company reported a serious accident recently or was a complaint made to the Authority about them.
However most inspections are targeted at the high risk sectors such as construction, agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, mines, quarries, transport of dangerous goods by road, or the chemical sectors.
These sectors are set out in our Annual Work Programme and each inspector picks the premises to be inspected based on their local knowledge.
Other inspections can be part of a campaign e.g. on manual handling, on slips, trips or falls or on compliance with the REACH Regulation. Approximately 5% of all visits are due to accident and/or complaint investigations.
Nobody wants to be targeted for a health and safety inspection. Even so, it always pays to be prepared.
What the Inspector does
– Enforce the relevant statutory provisions the Authority has the responsibility for enforcing
– Monitor the level of implementation of and compliance with these requirements
– Promote, encourage and advise employers, employees and other duty-holders in relation to their legal responsibilities
– Promote and encourage measures aimed at the prevention of accidents, dangerous occurrences and personal injury at work.
– Promote the safe use of chemicals so as to protect human health and the environment
– Provide information and advice on matters relating to the items under inspection
– Promote and encourage the implementation of best practice with regard to occupational safety and health and the safe use of chemicals.
How should I prepare for an inspection?
Ideally, a company’s preparations should begin long before the threat of an announced or unannounced inspection.
This means completing and fully documenting all the relevant risk assessments, and addressing any remedial actions (or, at the very minimum, setting them in train) proportionate to the level of risk faced by the company.
An inspector will want to see that a business has the correct attitude towards health and safety, and to see that ethos embedded in its culture. In advance of an inspection, ask yourself: could I answer the following questions?
– Has someone in the organisation taken ownership and responsibility for health and safety matters, and is that person easily identifiable?
– Are all of my health and safety policies and procedures properly documented and reviewed, with up-to-date risk assessments in place?
– When were my employees last trained, has this been documented, and is there need for refresher training?
– Do I have any outstanding remedial actions following previous interventions that should already have been completed? Did the last internal or external audit highlight areas that needed to be remedied as a priority?
– Is all the company’s machinery or equipment in good working order?
– How are my health and safety arrangements supervised (and escalated to senior management, as appropriate)?
Key to success?
Safety statement implementation is the key to success with health and safety management in any workplace.
The inspector will need to see clear evidence for this fromt he person responsible for Health and Safety or the Health and Safety Consultant. To properly implement the safety statement employers must put in place a safety and health management system which suits its needs but gets the job done.
The safety statement may need to cover an employer’s responsibilities for several workplaces or many work locations under its control and the means for doing this will need to be clearly set out.
This safety system must ensure that everyone in the workplace or those doing the work activity if done at several locations knows what is expected of them with regard to employee safety and health from the CEO/ MD down to the front line employees.
All staff need to know the health and safety rules they must follow at their workplace, the ones which the employer must follow to comply with the safety and health laws which apply to their workplace.
A preventative role
The Inspectors’ primary focus is a preventative one, which is to raise awareness among employers, employees and other duty holders on their responsibilities under this legislation.
Typically less than 10% of inspections result in formal enforcement actions being taken, 45% result in a written report of inspection handed out at the inspection and the rest are just advisory in nature.
10% formal enforcement
45% written report of inspection