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What is enforcement?

HSE’s emphasis is on prevention but, where appropriate, we will come down hard on those that put others at risk, particularly where we find deliberate flouting of the law.

Enforcement ensures that dutyholders.

We are guided by the HSE's Enforcement Policy Statement , which reflects the principles of the Code for Crown Prosecutors, society in general, law-abiding businesses and workers expect this of us. We have included examples of prosecutions where duty holders have flouted the law and/or shown reckless disregard for health and safety requirements.

Firm, properly targeted and proportionate enforcement underpins the action we need to take to deliver the HSE Strategy: 'The Health and Safety of Great Britain \\ Be Part of the Solution'. Our powers to take enforcement action amplify all that we do to deliver a sustainable, long-term reduction in occupational injury and ill health

Enforcement policy statement

The Health and Safety Commission’s (HSC’s) Enforcement Policy Statement explains the general principles and approach which HSC expects enforcing authorities (mainly HSE and local authorities) to follow.

This report covers all the workplaces and activities where HSE is the enforcing authority, for example factories, farms, offshore gas and oil installations, nuclear installations, mines, schools and hospitals. The report does not cover workplaces where local authorities have enforcement responsibility – for example most offices, warehouses, shops and consumer services.

Our evidence confirms that enforcement is an effective motivator and deterrent. It plays an important role in securing compliance as well as promoting self-compliance.


We don’t take enforcement action lightly. Visits from our inspectors give duty holders the opportunity to get expert advice face to face. A proportionate approach is taken to any breaches, so in less serious cases, the inspector will explain how the dutyholder is not complying with the law and advise them how to put the problem right. The inspector will explain legal requirements and good practice, as well as confirming the advice in writing if asked. However, failure to follow the advice from our inspectors is often taken into account by courts if that failure results in harm.


Dutyholder is the generic term for a person or organisation with responsibilities under health and safety law. Dutyholders include employers, self-employed people, contractors and employees.

Updated 2014-12-09