Part 1 of the Action Plan includes matters which are particularly significant and where we suggest that action should be taken within six weeks. Matters in Part 2 are less significant and can be dealt with over a longer period.
This distinction is intended to help you achieve a level of compliance with health and safety legislation that will avoid enforcement action (letters, Prohibition and Improvement Notices and court cases) by the Enforcing Authorities. Formal enforcement is never welcome - it costs time and money and also brings uninvited publicity and damage to reputation. It is also published for all to see on the enforcing authority website.
It will be even more unwelcome when the HSE introduces a proposed charging regime, the operation of which is already being tested within the organisation, to cover the shortfall in its government funding. In their consultation document it is suggested that on average an enforcement letter would be charged at £750 while the issue of an Improvement Notice would attract an average charge of £1500.
Part 1 of the Action Plan contains significant issues where, in the current regime, enforcement could reasonably be expected following an inspection or investigatory visit by an inspector. It is therefore important that you are aware of the priority that they should be given. When we say that you should take action within six weeks we don’t mean that all necessary action should have been completed within that time but that you should at least have begun to take action. Some issues will inevitably take longer than six weeks to complete, some may need to be financed; but you reduce the likelihood of enforcement action if you can demonstrate to an inspector that you have recognised the hazard and risk and are doing something about it.
Part 2 of the Action Plan includes matters where you are not compliant but where the gap between your level of compliance and the law is not an immediate risk of injury or ill-health to your workforce, customers or clients. Here, using the words of the Health and Safety at Work Act itself, you need to complete the actions suggested in a reasonably practicable timescale.
The changes to our report also give directors and managers notice of significant issues where, in the event of a fatal accident, failure to act could result in action against the business for Corporate Manslaughter (Corporate Homicide in Scotland) or against an individual for Gross Negligence Manslaughter. With the Police leading fatal accident investigations in the first instance this is a very real threat; one to be avoided wherever possible.
We hope that by giving you an indication of significance and priority in our reports you will be able to avoid unnecessary costs and business disruption. For further advice or information please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772 and speak to one of our Health and Safety Consultants.