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Recent trends in HSE enforcement notices

14 May 2024

The HSE continue to be vigilant in their issuing of enforcement notices across both the public and private sectors. Whilst the HSE investigates and issues notices for a wide variety of breaches of health and safety legislation, we have noticed some recent trends which are worth noting.

Prohibition notices at recycling centres

In recent years, there has been a noticeable number of Prohibition Notices (PNs) issued to recycling centres more often than not for very similar breaches of the legislation. This is a trend that should prove particularly interesting to local authorities as in the 3 examples listed below appear to be the main organisations in the HSE's gaze. 

The examples below range from January 2021 to November 2023 and should help make it clear why the HSE has taken such an interest and hopefully can act as a cautionary tale to others so as to avoid Enforcement Notices in the future. Whether in the public or private sector!

1. PN issued to North Ayrshire Council – Kilbirnie Recycling Centre 

This recycling centre had a compactor with a hydraulic lid. The system had a support arm that was supposed to keep the lid open, however, the HSE found this support arm to be inadequate. The HSE also looked at the worksite in general and noted one of the gantry doors was not able to be fixed into position which posed an additional health risk. 

The HSE issued the notice on breaches of Sections 2 and 3 of the 1974 Act as well as a breach of Regulation 11 of The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

2. PN issued to North Ayrshire Council – Bartonholm Recycling Centre

This PN was served upon the same council, for the same breaches of legislation, once again in relation to a compactor machine. This time, the compactor had a missing guard which was exposing employees to dangerous parts of the machinery. Similar to the example above, the HSE found one of the gantry doors was not maintained and there was a risk people could fall through it.

3. PN issued to Exeter City Council – Exeter Recycling Centre

The third example involves multiple bailers missing safety guards and a defective emergency stop button on an aluminium bailer.

The HSE, having identified a significant danger to employees, elected to issue this notice once again under a breach of Section 2 of the 1974 act as well as a breach of Regulation 11 -  again, similar to the above examples.  

These examples should highlight the importance of managing safety for any party operating a recycling centre, or more generally, any group that has employees using machinery such as those indicated above. The HSE has, and will continue to, scrutinise any failures to maintain and operate a safe working environment with equally safe and maintained equipment. 

Radioactive substances in schools

The HSE released a bulletin on 29 March 2022 regarding ionising radiation in schools. This highlighted the HSE's focus on managing risks posed by radiation to staff and students at school as well as provided a link to an Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) and Guidance. 

Importantly, this bulletin noted the HSE's intention to carry out inspections in schools starting in April 2022 to review compliance.

The bulletin can be accessed here.

The follow-up to this bulletin is that numerous Improvement Notices were issued to local authorities in regards to schools across the UK.

  • City of Edinburgh Council – The Royal High School
    • Issued 31/03/2023 – Compliance Date 31/05/2023
  • Argyll and Bute Council – Lochgilpead High School
    • Issued 31/03/2023 – Compliance Date 31/05/2023
  • Fife Council – The Waid Academy
    • Issued 30/03/2023 – Compliance Date 31/05/2023
  • Dumfries & Galloway Council – St Joseph's College
    • Issued 06/02/2023 – Compliance Date 31/03/2023
  • East Ayrshire Council – Loudoun Academy
    • Issued 08/11/2022 – Compliance Date 16/12/2022

In each case, the school was found to have "had inadequate arrangements for working with a radioactive source". 

These were identified more specifically as being breaches of Sections 2 and 3 of the 1974 Act as well as Regulation 5 of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Whilst it was not reported what the sources of radiation were in these cases, some examples where ionising radiation may be present in schools can range from geological specimens that carry radioactive minerals to devices such as an Isotope generator or Protactinium generator used in chemistry classes.  

This trend should provide a warning to those working with ionising radiation to ensure they are compliant with the HSE guidance, in particular schools. Additionally, it also evidences that the best way to stay on top of your health and safety obligations, as well as the HSE's expectations, is to keep up to date with their press releases and bulletins. This will help to identify where their interests lie ahead of their investigations.

All organisations should be wary of their obligations under the 1974 Act and should aim to be as vigilant in fulfilling them as the HSE is at enforcing them. 

If you require any assistance in regards to your health and safety obligations or have received an enforcement notice from the HSE and require advice, please contact the author below.

Authored by Laura McCabe (Partner and Solicitor Advocate – Dispute Resolution) and Adam MacDonald (Trainee in Dispute Resolution)

Further Reading