This procedure describes how HSE handles complaints against dutyholders: from initial receipt, through follow up, to a decision whether or not to formally investigate.


To provide a common, transparent procedure for HSE Operational Group staff to handle complaints consistently and enable HSE to fulfil its duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act.


This procedure covers handling of all complaints by HSE from receipt to completion. It does not cover issues raised during a general discussion on site. These would not normally be classed as a complaint but would be dealt with as part of the site visit.


A complaint is a concern, originating from outside HSE, in relation to a work activity for which HSE is the enforcing authority, that is sufficiently specific to enable identification of the issue and the dutyholder and/or location and that either:

  • has caused or has potential to cause significant harm, or alleges the denial of basic employee welfare facilities, or
  • appears to constitute a significant breach of law for which HSE is the enforcing authority.


HSE's policy is to investigate every such complaint received unless:

  • the complainant wishes to remain anonymous, will not allow HSE to disclose that a complaint has been received and a vulnerable person is not involved
  • it is from a serial complainant and Band 2 or above decides no further action is required
  • it has been made by an employee and has not been taken up with the dutyholder or trade union (unless it involves a vulnerable person)
  • it is outside the scope of section 3, (except for pesticide complaints) see: Health & Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 section 3: enforcement
  • it is a gas complaint that is not "serious" (as defined) or the dutyholder cannot be identified

HSE will not investigate where:

  • there are no reasonably practicable precautions
  • it is impracticable to follow up / investigate

In the following exceptional circumstances HSE may decide not to investigate where:

there are inadequate resources to follow up / investigate

A decision not to investigate because of inadequate resources or other emerging priorities must be made by a Band 1 or above.

Roles and responsibilities

Complaints / Working Time Officers should:

handle complaints in accordance with this procedure

Inspectors should:

handle complaints in accordance with both this and the investigation procedure

All staff should:

meet the performance standards set within the procedure (and record relevant data on COIN completely and accurately) or agree with the line manager revised performance standards when necessary

Line managers should:

  • ensure staff receive the appropriate training and are competent in their role
  • support and guide their staff as necessary
  • ensure staff achieve the performance standards set or, exceptionally agree revised standards if necessary
  • undertake monitoring as required by this procedure.

Procedure overview

An overview of the procedure is provided in the attached flowcharts.


Line managers should ensure, via normal management activity, that those involved in operating this procedure carry out their responsibilities in line with the standards and timescales described. However, they should make sufficient documented checks to satisfy themselves, and to prove to any subsequent audits, that the procedure is being operated correctly.

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Updated 2020-12-14