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Prison service organisation, management and inspection

OC 334/2

This OC describes the organisation of HM Prison Service in England and Wales, and the Scottish Prison Service. It describes how they are managed and gives guidance on how inspectors can deal with a range of issues peculiar to prison inspection. Whilst not covering secure hospitals, parts of this OC may be relevant to such sites.

Following the 2010 spending review the organisation and arrangements here described may be subject to major review and change. This document will be updated as these changes become clear.



1 In May 2007, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) was formed taking on responsibility for the justice system (the courts, prisons and probation services) in England and Wales. The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) is an executive agency of MoJ. NOMS, which incorporates HM Prison Service, is responsible for commissioning and delivering offender management services in custody and the community, providing public prison service and overseeing the Boards and Trusts which provide probation services. It is also responsible to the Youth Justice Board (YJB) for the services it provides for children and young people remanded or sentenced to custody and to the United Kingdom Borders Agency for the custodial places provided to hold detainees considered for deportation.

2 In Scotland there are eight Criminal Justice Authorities (CJAs) established in 2007 by the Scottish Government as devolved public bodies to drive the national strategy for the management of offenders and oversee the Criminal Justice social work services. The CJAs work with the Scottish Prison Service, the police, NHS, local authority Criminal Justice Social work services and the voluntary sector.

3 The Prison Service is made up of 2 separate organisations: HM Prison Service (HMPS) in England and Wales, and the Scottish Prison Service (SPS). The former is part of NOMS, under a Chief Executive Officer, whilst the latter is an Agency of the Scottish Government, with a Chief Executive. Both prison services are held to be part of the Crown and therefore subject to Crown administrative enforcement procedures.

4 The prison population in England and Wales is now 87,196 (04/2010). These prisoners are held in 139 prisons, remand centres and young offenders institutions run by over 52,000 staff, of whom approximately 21,000 are uniformed prison officers. The Scottish Prison Service1 holds about 8,000 prisoners in 16 establishments with 4,007 staff (03/09). Both services also have training colleges, stores and headquarters. At present there are 11 private prisons operated by the private sector companies in England and Wales and 2 in Scotland. A further 4 new prisons are being planned by 2014.

Prison service estate and categorisation

5 In England and Wales, sentenced adult male prisoners are divided into 4 security categories that determine the type of prisons in which they can be held:

  • category A - prisoners whose escape would be highly dangerous to the public or the police or the security of the state, no matter how unlikely that escape might be, and for whom the aim must be to make escape impossible;
  • category B - prisoners for whom the very highest conditions of security are not necessary, but for whom escape must be made very difficult;
  • category C - prisoners who cannot be trusted in open conditions, but who do not have the resources and will to make a determined escape attempt; and
  • category D - prisoners who can be reasonably trusted in open conditions.

In Scotland, prisoners are assigned to one of three categories:

High Supervision: an individual for whom all activities and movements require to be authorised, supervised and monitored by prison staff.

Medium Supervision: an individual for whom activities and movements are subject to locally specified limited supervision and restrictions.

Low Supervision: an individual for whom activities and movements, specified locally, are subject to minimum supervision and restrictions. Low Supervision prisoners may be entitled to release on temporary licence and unsupervised activities in the community.

6 Many prisons will contain prisoners with a range of categorisations. Local prisons serving nearby courts may well have category C, category D (prisons will often have a few prisoners of a lower categorisation, to carry out a variety of tasks), prisoners on remand, young offenders, and perhaps female prisoners, all within one establishment.

1 figures from 08/09 SPS annual report

7 Some prisons will also contain special secure units (SSUs). These are effectively miniature prisons within the main prison. They have separate facilities and staff and are used to hold the most dangerous, vulnerable or sensitive prisoners.

8 Remand prisoners are unconvicted prisoners held on remand on the order of the courts. They are detained with a view to subsequently presenting them at court, but not to punish them. Remand prisoners make up approximately 20% of the prison population in England and Wales and almost 21.5% of the prison population in Scotland.

9 Young male offenders are held apart from adult offenders, in separate wings or different establishments. Female offenders make up around 5% of the prison population in England and Wales and over 5% in Scotland.

10 Prisons will also have their own segregation unit, where prisoners are held in what used to be referred to as 'solitary confinement'. Prisoners can be segregated in this way either as a punishment, for reasons of good order and discipline or for their own protection. Examples of the latter would be where the prisoner is a known sex offender, or where they have transgressed some 'rule' of the inmate population, eg informed on someone, owe money, etc. If the prisoner cannot be reintegrated into the general prison population, they may be moved to a prison with a large 'vulnerable prisoner' population. Wherever they are housed, they are kept separate from the rest of the prisoners, to prevent them being intimidated or attacked.

11 A proportion of cells in prisons will be ‘safer’ cells. These cells meet a more rigorous standard of design (laid down in a Prison Service Instruction) that minimises the risk of suicide via a ligature. The number of safer cells will be dependent on risk. Safer cells form only part of the wider management of risk from suicide.

12 Prisons may also have ‘constant observation’ cells, which allow a prisoner to be observed constantly (by an Officer seated opposite the door) via use of a gated cell door.

All prison cells now have in-cell sanitation.

Prison Industries - workshops, farms and prisoner employment

13 Most prisons will have some kind of industrial workshops. Some prisons have a farm/market garden on site. It is thought that by giving prisoners productive work, they will be helped to gain skills, knowledge, attitudes and habits that will help them when they return to society. For example, prisoners make clothes and furniture, both for internal use and on contract work organised by Prison Enterprise Services, as well as working in prison kitchens and laundries. The amount of prison manufacturing work has steadily increased over recent years with workshops ranging from small units, making up bathroom components and fittings, to major manufacturing facilities, producing, for example, furniture for prison cells.

14 Prisoners will also be drafted into work parties in various parts of the prison. The works department will often use prisoners in light construction and maintenance work, and they will normally be found involved in catering, cleaning parties and laundries.

15 Even though they 'work' in workshops, kitchens, etc, prisoners are not normally regarded as employees since they do not work under a contract of employment although they can receive various rates of pay. The Health and Safety (Training for Employment) Regulations 1990 can be applied to prisoners undergoing training on approved courses such as those under the auspices of the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), which are found in many prisons, eg bricklaying, and painting and decorating. However, they will only be deemed to be employees when they are on work experience, outside the prison environs.

16 Nevertheless, the health and safety standards applied to prison workshops and farms should be the same as those in the commercial sector. Prisoners who are not deemed to be employees are entitled to the protection afforded by the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act) s.3(1).

17 The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (PPE Regulations) do not impose duties in relation to non-employees, but may be used as a guide to compliance with HSW Act s.3 duties towards prisoners. Personal protective equipment (PPE) for working prisoners should be of a standard comparable to industry, but will not normally be on personal issue. Therefore, procedures should be in place for its proper maintenance, cleaning and storage.

18 Prisons also offer a wide range of educational and vocational training. Topics covered include the CITB courses mentioned at para 13, catering/cooking, IT skills and basic reading and writing. Some courses will be taught by prison service personnel, others by outside teachers on a contract basis. As with the farms and workshops, the same standards should be applied here as in other adult educational establishments, with the proviso that staff safety must also be addressed.

Private prisons

19 One of the ways in which the Prison Service is easing overcrowding is to use the private sector to run existing prisons or to design and build new prisons which they then run (designed, contracted, managed and financed (DCMF) by contractors under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

There are now eleven privately run prisons in England and Wales and two in Scotland. Nine prisons have been financed, designed, built and run by the private sector under PFI contracts – Dovegate, Altcourse, Ashfield, Forest Bank, Lowdham Grange, Parc, Rye Hill, Bronzefield and Peterborough. In addition Wolds and Doncaster were built and financed by the public sector but are run by private companies under management-only contracts. Scotland have 2 prisons – Kilmarnock and Addiewell under PFI contracts. The first DCMF establishments to be built were at Fazakerley (Altcourse) and Bridgend (Parc) in 1997 and Kilmarnock in Scotland in 1999.

All privately run prisons form part of the Prisons Estate, and the Justice Secretary/Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Justice has the same responsibility towards them as for the rest of the Service

The public services sector is working with private sector prisons and has established a national forum bringing together key organisations who manage and run prisons under contract. The forum aims to share good practice, improve communications and offer an opportunity to discuss key issues affecting this sector19 In England and Wales, in every case, the prison will have a representative of the relevant Home Department on site, as a controller. The controller's function is to monitor contract performance, investigate allegations against custodial staff and assume responsibility for adjudications in prison disciplinary cases. All other staff on site will be employed by the contractors. The contractors do not have Crown Immunity (ref HSW Act s.48) and normal enforcement procedures should be used when dealing with them.

20 In England/Wales, under the Criminal Justice Act 1991 (equivalent legislation for Scotland: Criminal Justice and Public order Act 1994), contractors' staff employed on custodial duties must be certified by the Home Office as prisoner custody officers, which requires training to an approved standard.

Prison management

21 Prison management is formally structured. In England and Wales, standards and specifications for prison and probation service are delivered through ten regional Directors of Offender Management (DOMS) covering nine regions in England and Wales (see annex 1).

22 Each DOM is accountable for all probation and prison delivery working with individual private and public prisons and reports performance to NOMS Board through Chief Operating Officer.

23 A core regional structure has been developed which is used as a template by each DOM for their region and typically consists of 5 regional managers for custodial services, community services, commissioning, organisation development and finance and performance which includes health and safety.

24 The SPS is headed by its Chief Executive who reports to Scottish Ministers and Scottish Government for the Scottish prison system. He is supported by the Prison Board consisting of 5 directors and 5 non executive directors.

25 NOMS has an Occupational Health and Safety Section (OHASS) who produce corporate occupational health policies. These are used by regional health and safety advisors who provide guidance and assurance to DOMS and to support establishment advisors. In addition to this each prison establishment have their own competent health and safety advisors.

26 NOMS headquarters produces large numbers of policies on a wide range of issues, eg security, fire precautions, contingency plans (these can cover emergencies such as feeding the prisoners if the kitchens go out of action, outbreaks of contagious diseases, evacuation procedures), etc. Whilst each prison will produce its own safety policy, some of the specific policies and arrangements are set down in these centrally produced policies. An example is prisoner transfers or movements. This is a regular activity at all prisons, as prisoners are transferred, taken to court or hospital. The procedure is risk-assessment based and frequently involves liaising and cooperating with other bodies outside the prison. The policy and procedures for organising such transfers may not, however, be found within the safety policy, but within other policy documents dealing with security. Inspectors should bear this in mind when assessing a prison management's safety policy.

27 The officer in charge of a prison is known as the governing governor, governor in charge or director (in private prisons) as distinct from other governor grades. However, in the 3 cluster prisons – Sheppey, Isle of Wight and Hewell there is a Chief Executive supported by Governors. Governing Governors will be Civil Service Grade 7 or above (through to Senior Civil Servant in a few circumstances) (NOMS grades Senior Manager D through Senior Manager A, A being higher) depending on seniority and the complexity of the prison. The governing governor is supported by the deputy governor who is a NOMS grade D or E in most cases. Below them are various less senior governor grades; Heads of function and operational managers.

28 The responsibilities of the senior prison managers are described below (In Scotland depending on the size and complexity of the prison the organisational structure may vary but all the responsibilities will be covered and would usually include a rehabilitation/resettlement team too):

(1) Governor: Provides leadership, business planning and has managerial responsibility and accountability for all prison staff. Governor is the link between quality of custodial provision in establishments and external bodies responsible for monitoring performance e.g IMB, HMCIP and OFSTED.

(2) Deputy Governor: Supports establishment Governor. Acts second in charge and is responsible for monitoring operational stability and security of prison and managing the day to day delivery of activities, performance measures and targets. Through Heads of Functions Deputy Governor has overall management responsibility for many of the staff.

(3) Human Resources Business Partner (HRPB): Role focuses on identifying and implementing a people strategy aligned to NOMS HR Operating model. HRPB is member of SMT with strategic advisory focus on employee engagement, policies and practice. Although this role has limited staff management, it works with several units such as training, business performance and Health and Safety.

(4) Head of Functions – Reducing Reoffending: SMT member responsible for public protection, sentence planning and management of offenders while in custody with Management responsibility of staff within their function.

(5) Head of Function – Operations and Security: SMT member accountable for operations and security functions including reception, prisoner movement, Gates, Prison Officer Operations & Support staff, intelligence unit, search teams, dog handling and segration facilities.

(6) Head of Function – Residential: SMT member responsible for wings, induction, safer custody, violence reduction, segration units and specialist wings e.g drugs and staff responsibility for wing managers.

(7) Head of medical services: medical officer who normally has responsibility for prisoner health care, overseeing the hospital or health centre facilities but does not normally have a role in occupational health for prison officers.

(8) Health and safety advisers: each prison establishment has a health and safety advisor recommended to be at NOMS Manager G level and with NEBOSH qualification. This post is intended to be distinct from the health and safety sponsor, who will be the Health & Safety champion at senior management team level.

29 In England and Wales, there are 3 ranks of uniformed officers: principal officer (2 pips on shoulder), senior officer (one pip on shoulder) and normal grade prison officers. There are 2 prison officer grades; Staff join as a Prison Officer 2, and must work for a year before they can undertake specialist duties such as interventions, dog handling etc. Otherwise the 2 grades generally perform the same roles.

30 The Principal Officer grade was recently removed. Some staff will still be in post as Principal Officers while staff are relocated to alternative pay bands, move on or leave the service.

31 In Scotland, there are also 3 operational grades of uniformed officer - C, D & E. Whereas grades C & D wear only ‘HMP’ on their epaulettes, those designated as ‘First Line Managers’ wear two pips. The overall grade structure is A-I with ‘I’ being the most senior. Grades C – E also contain non-operational staffs who wear civilian clothes rather than uniform. Uniform is not worn by middle and senior managers in grades F – I).

32 Most prison officers are members of the Prison Officers Association (POA), or the Scottish Prison Officers Association, which are active in the field of health and safety and will often refer issues to local inspectors. HSE has met the trade union side of the Prison Service Health and Safety Committee, including support staff unions, on several occasions.

33 In England and Wales, inspectors may also meet with operational support grades (OSG), formerly known as prison auxiliaries and night patrols. They are uniformed staff with a minimal amount of prison officer training. They are mostly used for escort duties, searching, taking visitors or contractors around the prison, or gate duties. They may have some contact with prisoners. There are no OSGs in Scotland and, whereas escorting prisoners outwith prison premises is the responsibility of a contractor, prisoner escorts within premises is carried out by operational uniformed officers. Escorts of other visitors will depend on circumstances but can be non-uniformed staff who are authorised to carry keys, e.g. estates, educational, social work etc.

34 An example of a management tree of a typical prison is given at the Appendix.

35 Within a prison, many non-uniformed staff will also be found. There will be numbers of administrative staff, catering staff, industrial trades, along with educational and instructional staff; most of these may be contractors. There will also be many visitors, both official and personal. Visitors could include police, probation officers, priests or other religious officials, contractors such as builders, teachers, solicitors, and of course families.

Risk assessments and instructions and advice to governors

36 Guidance to prison governors is issued by their respective prison service headquarters via agency instructions which were formerly known as prison service orders (PSO, long term mandatory instructions) and/or prison service instructions (PSI, mandatory instructions with a definite expiry date). Other policies and procedures are detailed in manuals, such as those on security matters, contingency plans, etc. With the increased autonomy of governors, some advice may be ignored or priority given to matters with a legal requirement or a performance measure. Training of staff in health and safety matters has on occasions been set aside in this way.

37 Concern has been voiced in the past as to the performance of the prison services in the preparation of risk assessments, and this has resulted in Crown notices being issued. These were largely under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH), dealing with poor control of microbiological risks arising from contact with blood and body fluids, but also under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 (MHSW Regulations), dealing with the training of managers.

38 OHASS now provide policy and guidance on risk assessment which is all based on HSE guidance.

39 For some years, safety advisors from MOJ’s Corporate Health and Safety Branch have carried out periodic inspections of public sector prisons in England and Wales, and provided advice and training for those establishments under a service level agreement (SLA) to the Prison Service. SLA’s include audit and specialist monitoring. Governors are required to submit an action plan to remedy deficiencies. All quarterly audit reports are submitted for NOMS Board discussion and review

Risk assessment and staffing levels

40 The issue of staffing levels has frequently been raised by both Prison Officers' Associations (POA) in discussions with inspectors and the public services sector. When governors wish to reduce the number of staff needed for a particular task, the POA may query such reductions, citing health and safety requirements for maintaining existing levels. The Public Services Sector response to such an approach is to state that HSE will not become involved in discussions about staffing levels. However, an agreed staffing level may be set on the basis of a risk assessment, carried out by prison management in consultation with staff. In that case, the staffing level should not be reduced without reviewing the risk assessment.

Occupational health

41 NOMS now have a senior occupational health advisor to provide advice to the Board. There are approximately 30 in-house (NOMS employed) OH advisors and there is a contract with Atos to provide OPH services, which includes on-site provision for all sites.

42 NOMS have invested heavily in staff immunisation over the last 5 years and there have been significant improvements. NOMS have set up a national system to record and monitor staff immunes status.

43 NOMS has adapted the stress management standards approach to assess and manage workplace stress. Each region should have a stress steering committee, which should lead to action plans for the proactive management of stressors at regional and prison level. These action plans may be coordinated with NOMS ‘listen to improve’ programme or the ‘investors in people’ agenda.

Violence to staff

44 Violence to staff within the prison service is a major problem: assaults comprised of almost 25% of all injuries reported under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) to prison staff in England, Scotland and Wales from 2004/05 to 2008/09. Both prison services put a lot of effort into reducing the risks arising from this problem. Each prison in England and Wales has a local violence reduction strategy and follow agency instruction/PSO 2750. In Scotland, every prison has a duty to follow the current SPS national policy on violence, which is currently included in the ‘Anti-Bullying’ policy, presently under revision. (Likely to be re-issued as an ‘Anti-Violence’ policy in the near future).

45 There are internal systems for reporting violent incidents (collated nationally), recording noteworthy events or behaviour on each wing and communicating these to each new shift or the control room. Further measures include control and restraint training (C&R), provision of alarms throughout the wings, personal alarms and radios, and anger reduction classes/therapy.

46 Levels of C&R competence are a very important part of the prison services' approach to controlling violence from prisoners. Two levels of C&R training/competence exist:

47 (1) basic training - breakaway techniques; application of simple restraint techniques; 3-officer teams for cell rescue/intervention; and

48 (2) advanced training - public order techniques for riot control.

49 All newly-trained prison officers will have had basic training. Officers with longer service will usually have had training in similar techniques in the past. Each prison is also expected to maintain a cadre of officers trained to advanced level. These make up part of a geographical or regional resource that can be called on by other prisons in times of crisis. Advanced-trained officers are equipped in the same way as police support units, ie Nato helmet, fire resistant overalls, boots, shin pads, full length or half length polycarbonate riot shields, etc. These officers will have periodic training sessions which can be very realistic, though in the interests of safety, wooden blocks are used instead of bricks, and real fire extinguishers are no longer thrown.

50 As described above, prisons will have large numbers of staff who are not prison officers, some of whom will have regular contact with prisoners. There should be procedures in place governing their access to wings and other areas when prisoners are present; and arrangements for escorts if necessary. They will have been trained in prison security procedures - use of alarms and keys - and breakaway techniques. All staff are usually offered training in dealing with hostage taking situations: there are set procedures to be followed in such situations, until a trained negotiator can attend. Equally, there should be set procedures for non-prison service visitors, including inspectors]. Some will need to be escorted; some who visit regularly, such as clergy, teachers, etc may need little assistance. The procedures and precautions required will ultimately depend on the individual, the area to be visited and the profile of the prisoner(s). They should be the subject of appropriate risk assessments.

Microbiological issues

51 Blood and body fluids/products can be encountered in a number of ways. These include blood spills from accidents, assaults and suicides; human bites; needle stick injuries from drug taking equipment; dirty protests; faeces or urine thrown from cells (less of a problem with increasing in-cell sanitation); as well as normal maintenance work. Assessments made under COSHH should be produced for any activity where there is potential for infection or contact with infected/potentially infected materials. Any such assessments should be made with reference to ACOP L5 - COSHH (fifth edition) schedule 3 and appendix 2. Individual establishments should consider central guidance on the cleaning up of major blood spillages, 'dirty protests' where a cell may need to be cleaned with a pressure washer and routine maintenance work in areas where faeces have been deposited or thrown. As a result, a number of Crown improvement notices have been issued.

52 Both HIV and Hepatitis B are Group 3 organisms under the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) classification. Hepatitis B is also one of the pathogens where records of last exposure must be kept for 40 years. Further guidance on work with these organisms can be found in the ACDP guidance on categorisation of biological agents, and protection against blood borne infection in the workplace. Prison Service policy is that free vaccine on request is available to all prison staff who come into contact with prisoners, normally administered by the individual's own general practitioner, but prisons will vary in their ability to keep proper records of those vaccinated and their immune status. Vaccination is regarded by the Prison Service as an additional safeguard, not a control measure.

53 The prison services have extensive policies on both HIV and Hepatitis B: copies of Prison Service Order Blood borne and related communicable diseases are available to inspectors from the HMPS website. This provides information on how to deal with infected prisoners. Universal precautions should be used when handling any blood or body fluid/product spill, and many prison officers carry a pouch on their belts with gloves, resusci-aid, etc. Spill packs are also normally kept on wings to soak up and sterilise blood/fluid spills.

54 The Prison Service recognises the potential risk of legionellosis arising from hot and cold water systems and have published guidance to Governing Governors on how the risk should be managed. Their stated policy is that these water systems should be tested regularly.

Cell searches and electrical safety

55 Cells will be regularly searched by prison officers. They look for drugs, other contraband, weapons, etc. There are set policies on how and when such searches are to be conducted. Carrying out cell searches can give rise to a number of risks, in particular potentially infectious needles/sharps used in drug taking (referred to as 'works') and unsafe electrical equipment or wiring.

56 There have been considerable problems in the past with the 'illegal abstraction' of electricity (a potential breach of prison disciplinary rules) by prisoners in their cells. This basically involves the prisoner breaking in to the mains electrical supply within the cell via the light fitting or switch. This can be done for a number of reasons: to run radios and other equipment, stills, or to electrify the door or another part of the cell so as to cause injury. These installations were usually found by prison officers searching the cells, sometimes with the result that the officer received an electric shock.

57 The extent of the problem varies greatly between prisons. Various programmes have been put into place to attempt to control/reduce it, including the provision of protected 240 V supplies to cells, 12 V supplies and the provision of rechargeable batteries. Implementation of these programmes has sometimes been compromised by the cost of the necessary modifications, so a variety of systems may be found in practice.

HM inspectorate of prisons

58 There have been inspectors of Prisons for many years. However the current HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) was set up in the early 1980's under the Prison Act in response to a committee of inquiry into the UK prison services (the May Committee). In England and Wales, HM inspectors of prisons report to the Home Secretary, and in Scotland to the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Justice. Their terms of reference are to inspect and report on prison service establishments, in particular on conditions in those establishments, the treatment of prisoners and the facilities available to them, and other such matters as the Secretaries of State may direct. This is done by periodic inspections of individual establishments and the investigation of particular incidents or situations, the findings being published in reports. They are also expected to submit annual reports before their respective Parliaments. They do not have specific enforcement powers under the Prison Acts.

59 HM inspectors of prisons concentrate on major issues. They will not investigate individual complaints or grievances from prisoners but will draw attention in their reports to any general pattern of complaint if it highlights some inadequacy in the management of the establishment. HSE inspectors should therefore not refer individual complaints from prisoners to HMIP, but could bring to their attention matters that affect entire wings, departments or the prison as a whole. An example would be informing them of a lack of heating or some fault in the maintenance of an entire wing as opposed to an individual cell. Individual complaints on welfare matters should be directed to the local prison management; Home Office or Scottish Prison Service safety advisors; or, in England and Wales, to the prison's Independent monitoring Board previously known as Board of prison visitors, or in Scotland to the appropriate Prison Visiting Committee.

Independent Monitoring Boards (previously known as Boards of Visitors)

60 In England, Independant Monitoring Boards have in some respects similar functions to HMIP, but are concerned with an individual establishment and its well-being on a day to day basis. The Boards are made up of members of the local community appointed by the Home Secretary. They have complained to HSE in the past, in particular concerning cell sizes and the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (Workplace Regulations) (see para 52). They are one of the bodies to whom HSE inspectors can refer complaints from prisoners regarding their individual welfare. Every Board usually meets once a month and has an elected chair and vice chair.

Prison Visiting Committees

61 In Scotland, Visiting Committees act on behalf of the Scottish Ministers to provide an independent monitoring role within prisons. They co-operate with the Scottish Ministers and Governors in promoting the efficiency of prisons. They visit prisons on a regular basis and have unrestricted access to both the prison and prisoners. Visiting Committee members hear and investigate issues and complaints which prisoners may raise with them and subsequently advise the prisoner, Governor and Scottish Ministers of their findings. An annual report is submitted to the Minister for Justice covering the work of the Committee, its views on the state of the prison and its administration and any recommendations. Most Visiting Committees are appointed by Local Authorities, although some are appointed by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice.

Cell sizes

62 HSE has in the past received complaints regarding the sizes of cells and the fact that they were not large enough according to the Workplace Regulations reg.10. This regulation and its associated ACOP require that rooms where people work have a volume of at least 11 cubic metres. It is FOD's view that cells are not places of work subject to this regulation: whilst prison officers may be at work when they enter or search cells, the main purpose of the cell is to provide accommodation for a number of prisoners. Further, the size of cells has been covered by separate, specific legislation for many years.

63 Currently, the Prison Act 1952 s.14 (parallel legislation for Scottish prisons is The Prisons and Young Offenders Institutions (Scotland) Rules 1994 - Statutory instrument no. 1931 (S85) part 3) requires that the size, lighting, heating, ventilation and fittings (including alarms) of all cells should be certified as adequate by an officer acting on behalf of the Home Secretary: in practice, this has been delegated to the relevant area manager. Complaints or enquiries regarding these issues should again be directed to the prison's management, Independent Monitoring Boards, the Prison Visiting Committee, or the relevant prison service health and safety advisors. If prisoners are not satisfied with these formal complaint procedures, they can seek a ruling from the independent Prisons' Ombudsman or Scottish Prisons Complaints Commission.

Prisons' and Probation Ombudsman/Scottish Prisons Complaints Commission

64 The Prison and Probation Ombudsman, is appointed by the Secretary of State for Justice, and is independent of the NOMS (including HM Prison Service). The Ombudsman will investigate complaints which are submitted by individual prisoners who have failed to obtain satisfaction from the Prison Service requests and complaints system and which are eligible in all other respects. The Ombudsman will investigate circumstances of individual complaints about deaths in custody]. However, the Ombudsman has discretion to accept complaints from third parties on behalf of prisoners where the individual is deceased or unable to act on their own behalf. The Ombudsman's terms of reference include contracted out prisons, contracted out services, including escorts and the actions of people working in prisons but not employed by NOMS. In Scotland, the Scottish Prisons Complaints Commission (SPCC) fulfills a similar role. It is independent from the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) and investigates complaints made by prisoners that have not been resolved through the internal complaints system of the SPS. It reports annually to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice.

Fire precautions and cell fire rescue

65 Fires are not uncommon in prisons with the majority being cell fires often intentionally set. Prisoners are allowed to have smoking materials in their cells. As far as possible, items of furniture, bedding and clothing are made of fire retardant materials, although this does not extend to the prisoners' clothing and private effects which may include some electrical equipment.

66 In England and Wales, the general fire precautions of the regulatory reform (fire safety) order 2005 in Crown premises are enforced by the Crown Premises Inspection Group (CPIG) of the Home Office's Fire Service Inspectorate.

67 Cell fires may be started for a number of reasons: as a suicide attempt, as an attack on someone else or their property, or as an attempt to get attention. Prisoners will often barricade the door to their cell or threaten prison officers, making it difficult to enter the cell to fight the fire. To make it easier to extinguish cell fires, all modern cell doors should be fitted with inundation points that allow the entry of a hose nozzle.

68 Prison officers who attend cell fire incidents should be equipped with PPE. This can either be Short duration Breathing Apparatus (SDBA) or a specially designed smoke hood known as cell snatch rescue equipment (CSRE). They require less training and maintenance to use than SDBA and therefore offer a more useable alternative. The equipment is affective for protecting officers from the affects of smoke while they are inundating a cell through the inundation point. They also allow a snatch rescue of cell occupant but are not breathing apparatus suitable for full scale fire fighting activities. All users should be properly trained in the equipment used in accordance with the relevant PSO available on the Prison Service website]. In most establishments SDBA has been replaced by CSRE.

69 The long term objective of the Prison service is to introduce engineering control measures such as in cell fire detection and sprinkler systems, but due to age and condition of the prison estates this will take a number of years to achieve.

Fire Precautions Scotland

70 In Scotland, all prison establishments (whether operated by the SPS or by Private Contractors) fall fully within the scope of primary fire legislation with no ‘Crown exemption’ being applicable. The directly applicable legislation affecting the daily routine of an establishment is the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006.

71 The Enforcing Authority is the Chief Inspector of Fire & Rescue Authorities (CIFRA), and two authorised Enforcement Officers inspect every prison establishment annually in line with the published CIFRA Enforcement Policy.

72 The Attending Authorities are the local Fire & Rescue Authorities who send appliances and crews to a fire incident within a prison. Compliance with the legislative requirements regarding the safety of firefighters is achieved through the SPS Fire Risk Assessment process, liaison with the Fire & Rescue Authorities and CIFRA.

73 Full compliance with the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006 is required by SPS Fire Safety Policy. This compliance is achieved by specifically trained Fire Safety Officers within each establishment who are responsible for the routine application of legislation, and supported directly by the SPS Head of Fire Safety. Whilst establishment Fire Safety Officers report managerially to their respective Governors in Charge, the Head of Fire Safety reports directly to a Prisons Directorate Assistant Director (Compliance and Performance).

74 With the advent of Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, the concept fire certification ceased, and is no longer applicable for compliance with the Act and subsequent Regulations.

75 Also directly applicable is the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 which creates the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004. These Regulations are fully applicable to all prison establishments within Scotland due to removal of Crown Exemption. However, CIFRA act as Crown Inspectors whenever a relaxation is being considered to achieve compliance with the Building Regulations.

76 In Scottish prisons, the policy is that no entry will be made by prison staff to tackle cell fires. The policy is communicated to prisoners and is strongly enforced. Cell doors have been fitted with inundation points to allow a hose to be inserted to douse the cell in the event of a fire.

77 A further problem arising out of fires at prisons is the need to protect fire service personnel, prison officers and prisoners in riot situations, and prisoners where they have to be evacuated. The plans for evacuation will fall within the requirements will fall under the Fire Reform Act; but the risk to the staff and firefighters arising from contact with evacuated prisoners, is an HSW Act issue. Particular problems can arise when a prison contains numbers of vulnerable prisoners, who are liable to abuse and attack if mixed with other prisoners. Fire services serving prisons normally liaise closely with the establishment over access and personal safety. All these matters should be covered by the prison's fire precautions and contingency plans.

Passive Smoking

78 The anti- smoking legislation is not applicable to prisons as cells are defined as ‘domestic premises’. Inspectors should apply the principles of HSWA section 2 and the Management Regulations. The prison establishment is expected to carry out an assessment of the risks exposed to staff and in consultation with staff devise some reasonably practicable control measures. This might include some of the same controls identified for controlling smoke from cell fires such as improved ventilation and mobile ventilation units.

Reporting of injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences regulations 1995 (RIDDOR)

79 The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) apply to prisons in the same way that they apply to any facility or organisation used or occupied by members of the public. Prisoners are members of the public and as such accidents to them are reportable in the circumstances set out in reg.3(1)(a) and (c), where the accident arose out of or was in connection with the work of the prison. 'Hospital' in reg.3(1)(c) may be a prison hospital wing in this case. Assaults on members of staff are reportable; assaults on prisoners are not. Suicides of prisoners while in prison are also not reportable, since they are not accidents as defined.

80 In 2010, NOMS have implemented a new electronic reporting system aiming to improve accessibility and accuracy of reported accidents.

Enforcement considerations

81 HM Prison Service and the Scottish Prison Service are Crown bodies, and are subject to health and safety law by virtue of HSW Act s.48, but, by virtue of the same section, are not subject to HSE's criminal enforcement powers. Alternative administrative arrangements exist in the form of prohibition notices and improvement notices for Crown employers (LP 51 and LP 52 respectively); and Crown Censure in lieu of prosecution. When considering taking a Crown Censure, inspectors should discuss the matter beforehand with the Public Services Sector.

82 The contractors who operate the private prisons do not have Crown immunity, and normal enforcement measures should be used when dealing with them.

83 The prison services, in conducting their undertaking, owe duties under HSW Act s.3 to non-employees, including other persons working in prisons, visitors, and the Prisoners themselves. Inspectors should use s.3 to deal with risks to prisoners while they are carrying out work in prison and at risk from the work activities of other people. As a general rule, it should not be used to deal with problems that arise merely because a prisoner is confined in a prison, eg conditions in a cell (see para 50).

Prison inspection

84 Visits to prisons should be by appointment. This approach is necessary for reasons of security and to facilitate entry into the prison. Letters to the establishment should be addressed to the governor. Day-to-day contact can often be made by phone with the regional Health and Safety Advisor, the manager most often delegated to oversee health and safety matters.

85 Inspectors can also contact the establishment’s ‘health and safety sponsor’ as described in para 24 (8).

86 Unions or employee representatives, for both prison officers and other members of staff, should be made aware of the proposed visit and given the opportunity to make representations in the usual way.

87 The formalised policies, topic based activities and management structures found within prisons make them suitable for a health and safety management inspection by a multidisciplinary team. As with any such approach, a preliminary visit should be carried out. Inspectors should seek to establish the categorisation of the prison; prisoners and staff numbers; management organisation; and the industrial activity or training carried out.

88 Suggested topics/trails for an audit approach include: health and safety management, custodial operations, estate management, prison industries or farms, violence to staff, microbiological issues, occupational health. If any problems are found during a visit, these should be raised with the appropriate manager. Because of the nature of the relationship between prisoners and staff, it can cause problems if prisoners become privy to faults that may have been found, or if management are openly criticised in front of them. Prisoners are not regarded as employees (see paras 13 and 61), and it follows that they do not have the right to be kept informed of relevant information under HSW Act s.28(8).

89 All correspondence with a prison, including notices, should be addressed to the governing governor and copied to NOMS HQ Occupational Health & Safety Section:

1 England and Wales

Health and Safety Policy Adviser
Health and Safety Policy Unit
HM Prison Service
Clive House
Petty France

2 Scotland

Corporate Health and Safety Adviser
Scottish Prison Service
Calton House
5 Redheughs Rigg
EH12 9HW

90 Reports of major interventions at prisons, notices and any other items of note should also be copied to the Public Service Sector email: [email protected]

Health and safety of inspectors

91 Inspectors visiting prisons should familiarise themselves with the relevant Health and Safety Policy guidance on site visits and also any that might apply to on site industries. When first visiting a prison, inspectors should request a briefing from the prison itself on how they should conduct themselves when on site and any specific procedures that need to be followed, eg escorts, risks of violence or attack, access to very secure areas such as special secure units, or items which may not be taken into the premises.

92 To reduce the risk of an inspector's personal safety being compromised if it is necessary to correspond with an individual prisoner, it is suggested that inspectors anonymise their letters by removing any named reference to themselves or their line manager. Guidance should also be sought from the prison management as to whether the letter should be sent direct to the individual or via the governor. Correspondence to individual prisons can also be sent via Independent Monitoring Boards.

Date first issued: 25 October 1999


Updated 2020-12-11