Biocides enforcement

Reporting an incident or concern

If you have a concern about non-compliance with the laws on biocides or are aware of an incident relating to the use of biocides, you should report it to the appropriate enforcing authority. If you aren't sure whether the incident or concern involves a biocide go to our introductory page on biocides.

The right enforcing authority for concerns about non-compliance with other, non-biocide, laws that HSE oversees may be different.

For other chemicals laws see:

For other health and safety concerns such as working at height, manual handling, welfare facilities and use of vehicles at work, find out how to report a health and safety issue.

Reporting biocides issues to HSE

If HSE is the appropriate enforcing authority for your concern about biocides, you can report it to the Enforcement Team in our Chemicals Regulation Division (CRD) directly. There is no need to fill in any forms, just email us at [email protected]. To ensure we can consider the complaint fully, please:

  • provide as much detail as you can about the incident or concern, including:
    • the company
    • the product(s) and/or active substance(s)
    • which part of the law you think has been breached
  • be specific – HSE cannot take enforcement action in relation to generic concerns
  • provide any relevant documentation such as:
    • product labels
    • Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)
    • links to webpages
  • tell us who you are – we may not investigate complaints from anonymous sources
  • let us know if you would prefer your details to remain confidential in any investigation we undertake

Please note: We will not investigate your complaint if you choose to remain anonymous and tell us that you do not want HSE to disclose that a complaint has been received, unless a vulnerable person is involved.

How we enforce

If you contact us about a biocides incident or concern we:

  • will acknowledge that we have received the information
  • may ask you for more information
  • will transfer any case to the relevant enforcing authority if it is not for HSE – it will speed up the process if you can try to identify and contact the correct enforcing authority directly
  • will triage the incident/concern where HSE is the enforcing authority and establish a proposed course of action
  • will assign a priority to the incident/concern – cases are actioned in priority order
  • will inform you of our decisions – this may take some time depending on available resources and the depth of the investigation required
  • cannot provide details or updates relating to ongoing investigations unless there have been significant developments

HSE may not be able to investigate everything that is reported to us – we have to prioritise according to the severity of hazard and risk of harm to persons, animals and the environment. We will focus the majority of our resource on:

  • the incidents that give rise to the greatest risk
  • the issues or duty holders that cause us the greatest concern

As part of an inspection or investigation we may:

  • contact the duty holder for information – this may include requiring the duty holder to provide documentation or samples of products/active substances
  • visit the duty holder – we may or may not tell a duty holder of our intention to visit
  • purchase the duty holder's products online – we may do this covertly
  • use our enforcement powers, such as those to:
    • enter premises
    • seize evidence – including taking measurements, photographs, recordings and samples
    • serve notices – for example, improvement notices and prohibition notices
    • prosecute offenders

More information on the principles of HSE's investigations can be found on our central enforcement pages.

Offences and penalties

It is an offence for a person to fail to comply with, or cause another person to fail to comply with:

  • their duties under the laws that control biocides in the UK – the GB Biocidal Products Regulation (GB BPR), the EU Biocidal Products Regulation (EU BPR) and the Control of Pesticides Regulations (COPR)
  • the conditions of authorisation or approval for a biocidal product authorised or approved under GB BPR, EU BPR or COPR

Other offences include:

  • obstructing an inspector
  • providing a false statement
  • failing to comply with a notice served by an inspector

It’s important to note that GB BPR and EU BPR apply in parallel with COPR - this means that compliance with COPR does not excuse a failure to comply with GB BPR or EU BPR, and vice versa.

Additionally, GB BPR, EU BPR and COPR apply in parallel with a number of other laws, including other general chemicals law such as REACH, CLP and General Product Safety (GPS) Regulations - this means that compliance with GB BPR, EU BPR and COPR does not excuse a failure to comply with another law, and vice versa.

Where HSE determines it’s appropriate to prosecute a person for an offence, they may be tried:

  • summarily – for example, in the Magistrates' Courts in England and Wales or by summary complaint in the Sheriff Court in Scotland
  • on indictment – for example, in the Crown Courts in England and Wales or by solemn proceedings in the Sheriff Court in Scotland

If a prosecution results in a conviction, then the court will determine what penalty is appropriate in the circumstances. The maximum penalties available are set out in law and vary depending on whether:

  • the offence was committed under GB BPR, EU BPR or COPR
  • the conviction was summary or on indictment
  • the offence was committed in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland

The Courts will usually fine an offender, although there is often no limit on the amount of fine that can be awarded, and in certain circumstances a Court may sentence an individual to up to 2 years in prison (as well as, or instead of, a fine).

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Updated 2024-02-09