External Agencies


In the UK, the enforcement authorities are the health and safety executive (HSE), the local authorities and the environment agency.

Enforcement Authorities

Enforcement of the UK health and safety regulations is dealt with under section 18 of the health and safety at work act.

This section also provide enforcement responsibilities to be assigned to other authorities, such as:

  • DEFRA – Department for the environment, food and rural affairs
  • Fire authorities

The HSE is generally responsible for industry such as:

  • Construction
  • Mining
  • Quarries
  • Manufacturing

Whereas, the local authorities are generally responsible for commercial premises within their area.

The clear exception here is that neither the HSE or local authorities can be responsible for enforcing provisions on their own premises. In this case, they inspect each others.

The arrangements for the division of enforcement responsibilities are contained in the health and safety (enforcing authority) regulations of 1998.  The HSE website contains a more detailed list of divisions.

The responsibility of enforcement may be transferred between the HSE and local authority, and vice-versa.

Local authority enforcement activities

  • The sale or storage of goods for retail or wholesale distribution
  • Exhibitions
  • Office activities
  • Catering services
  • The provision of permanent or temporary accommodation
  • Consumer services provided in a shop
  • Beautician services
  • Concert and festivals
  • The provision of child care, playgroup or nursery facilities.

This list is not exhaustive and there are a number of exceptions to some of the activities.

The environment agency

The relevant environment agency is responsible the enforcement of section 5 of the health and safety at work act.

The Environment agency deals with integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC). Applied to the top tier polluting processes or substances, namely hazardous and controlled waste.

Local authorities are only responsible for a few aspect of air pollution control.

The employment medical advisory service (EMAS)

The employment medical advisory service was originally established under the factories act of 1961.

In some hazardous processes, the EMAS is responsible for the periodic surveillance of workers, as required by regulations.

The EMAS is staffed by specialist health and safety professionals, making them an integral part of the HSE.

They are made available to provide expert medical advice on all matters of work.

Employment medical advisers therefore have similar powers to HSE inspectors.

Fire and rescue services

The fire and rescue services have a responsibility to enforce the regulatory reform (fire safety) order (RRFO) of 2005.

Their aim is to promote fire safety and provide plans and arrangements for fighting fires and rescuing people.

Office of rail regulation (ORR)

Given a similar role to the HSE, the office of rail regulation (ORR) is limited to rail operators within the UK.

Insurance companies

Observing the status of the management of health and safety within the organisation, insurance companies focus on what has been insured.

The insurance company will look into the risks and the factors that can lead to a claim.

The aim of insurance companies is to influence the company to minimise risk.

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