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Health and Safety Law Explained

The main piece of legislation governing health and safety standards in the workplace across the UK is the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974 (HASAWA)

Workers-on-construction-siteResponsibilities for enforcing Health and Safety legislation is shared between a central government body called the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities.

Enforcement responsibilities are decided based on the ‘main activity’ carried on at each premises.

When a health and safety officer calls

What to expect when we visit your business

Officers visit businesses to ensure that your workers, and anyone visiting your commercial premises, are not put at risk of harm from the building or any activities you may be undertaking.

We visit many locations every year as part of our work; some may be without prior warning.  This isn’t unusual and the law lets us undertake visits at any reasonable time.  Although we have the powers to come into your workplace, officers are still required to follow the government’s code of practice on entering homes or businesses.  Further information on this can be found at 

During the visit 

On arrival the officer will introduce themselves; show you a photograph ID card and explain the reason for their visit – this could be to investigate a complaint; a work-related injury, illness or dangerous occurrence; to follow up a statutory notification; undertake a targeted inspection; or to provide business advice and support.

Whilst the officer is with you they will want to identify how you ensure the health and safety of your workers and anyone else who may be affected by your work activities (including visitors, customers, delivery drivers and contractors).  You can expect the officer to look around your business premises; ask to see specific pieces of equipment or machinery; request to see relevant documents (e.g. about training and maintenance arrangements). 

It is not unusual for an officer to speak to individual staff members and safety or trade union representatives.  It is not unusual for an officer to take photographs, measurements, samples or ask for copies of CCTV footage, physical documents or electronic records.

If documents have to be removed from site for copying, the officer will leave you documentation to confirm this.  You may also be required to leave an area, or equipment, undisturbed if it is relevant to an on-going investigation.

After the visit 

After the officer has completed their visit they may:

  • Offer advice (either verbal or in writing)
  • Send you a formal letter which clearly identifies all legal contraventions and recommendations.
  • Issue an Improvement Notice
  • Issue a Prohibition Notice
  • Instigate legal proceedings for breaches of health and safety laws.

Improvement Notice

An improvement notice will tell you:

  • what’s wrong
  • what legislation has been breached
  • any changes you need to make to put things right
  • how long you have to make those changes. 

You will be given at least 21 days to make any changes and will be provided with the relevant notes that accompany an enforcement notice.  You commit a criminal offence if you don’t make the changes in the time given to you.

Prohibition Notice

You may get a prohibition notice if there is a risk of serious personal injury now, or in the future.  A prohibition notice orders you to stop doing something until you have made it safe to continue.  You commit a criminal offence if you don’t comply with a prohibition notice. 

You may receive a prohibition notice to stop a work activity and an improvement notice to require you to make all necessary improvements.


The Authority can prosecute you for breaking health and safety laws or for failing to comply with an improvement notice or a prohibition notice.  Any decision to prosecute a company or individual duty holder would be following consideration of our compliance and enforcement policy. If you are found guilty, the courts can fine you, or in some cases, send you to prison. 

If you don’t agree with our decision or action taken

All letters sent to you by an officer will include details of their contact telephone number and e-mail address.  If you don’t agree with the outcome of an officer visit, your initial action should be to speak directly with the visiting officer and discuss your concerns.

If further discussion with the officer does not resolve produce a satisfactory outcome, you can raise your concern or complaint more formally by following our corporate complaint procedure.

  • You can use the form on our website at:
  • You can get in touch with our central contact point on: 01446 70011 if you want to make your complaint over the phone.
  • You can e-mail us at:
  • You can ask for a copy of our concern and complaint form from the person with whom you are already in contact. Tell them that you want us to deal with your concern formally.
  • You can speak to a receptionist at our main receptions and libraries.
  • You can write a letter to us at the following address: Customer Complaints Officer, Customer Relations, Civic Offices, Holton Road, Barry, CF63 4RU

If you wish to appeal against an Improvement Notice or Prohibition Notice that has been served on you, or your company, the correct procedure on how to do this will be detailed on the reverse side of the Notice in the notes section.

Public Register of Enforcement Notices

The Environment and Safety Information Act 1988 requires every local authority to maintain a public register of certain Notices served concerning health, safety, and environmental protection. This is the compact version of the register, specifically for the internet.      

H&S Enforcement Notices (Excel)                   

Entries required to be made in the register shall be made at any time during whichever of the following periods is applicable

  • where there is no right of appeal against the notice, within a period of 14 days following the day on which the notice is served
  • where there is a right of appeal, but no appeal is brought within the time limited for doing so, within a period of 14 days following the day on which the appeal time expires
  • where there is such a right and an appeal is brought, within a period of 14 days following the day on which the appeal is concluded. Where an appeal results in a Notice being cancelled, no record will be made in the public register.
  • Where the Authority is satisfied that the Notice has been complied with, an entry to that effect shall be made in the register within a period of 7 days.
  • Where a Notice is withdrawn, or amended, any entries in the register which relate to that Notice shall be deleted or amended within a period of 7 days.

Queries about earlier enforcement notices should directed to 

Note you cannot use details on the register for marketing purposes without the consent of the individuals listed on it.  For further information on Data Protection please see Vale of Glamorgan Council's Privacy Notice