Health and safety enforcement powers and policy

Our inspectors have a number of powers given to them by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which range from giving advice and information through to prosecution in the courts.

Our aim is firm but fair enforcement of health and safety law. Many deficiencies can be dealt with before formal enforcement becomes necessary.

If necessary, we will take action on those who break health and safety legislation, as this puts both passengers and workers at risk.

What enforcement powers do we have?

We have several levels of enforcement action available:

  • information and advice – this could be given verbally, or a written warning of non-compliance;
  • improvement notices – whereby there has to be an improvement in activity within a set timescale
  • prohibition notices – whereby work must stop completely until an issue has been addressed
  • issue cautions – a formal caution is a statement by an inspector and accepted in writing by the dutyholder, that the dutyholder has committed an offence for which there is a realistic prospect of conviction. It will be very unusual for a caution to be issued.
  • prosecution – the final stage where we take action under health and safety legislation. Cases can be prepared against both companies and individuals. They can be heard in either magistrates or crown courts. Those being prosecuted can be fined, although breaches of enforcement notices can result in prison sentences.

Health and safety enforcement policy

This page introduces our enforcement policy statement and explains the purposes and principles of enforcement of health and safety law.

Our health and safety enforcement policy statement pdf icon PDF, 143 Kb is an important document. It explains the purposes and principles of enforcement of health and safety law.

Our aim is to protect the health, safety and welfare of people at work. To safeguard others, mainly passengers and members of the public who may be exposed to risks related to the operation of guided transport systems.

We are not bound by any enforcement approach taken by the Health and Safety Commission (HSC), HSE or local authorities. Nevertheless, it is appropriate that a consistent approach is taken to enforcement across all industry sectors and our enforcement policy is consistent with that issued by the HSC to the HSE and local authorities.

The appropriate use of enforcement and prosecution powers is important, both to secure compliance with the law and to ensure that those who have duties under it may be held to account for failures to safeguard health, safety and welfare.

The ultimate purpose of our enforcement policy is to ensure that duty holders manage and control risks effectively, thus preventing harm.

Economic policy enforcement

As the economic regulator, we also enforce economic regulation of the railways. See our economic enforcement section for more.

Other enforcement roles

We are also the enforcing authority for the interoperability, rail vehicle accessibility and train driving licences and certificates regulations, and our HSWA enforcement policy statement also sets out the way in which we will ensure compliance with these statutory requirements.

Where can I find details of notices and prosecutions?

We hold a public register giving details of when we issue improvement notices, prohibition notices and prosecutions.

Further information