Section 20

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Health and safety Labour inspection

Section 20 gives the inspectors the power to investigate non-compliance and inspect premises.

Notes

The Act also creates an offence of obstructing an inspector in the course of their duties under s. 33(1)(h).

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Section 20. Powers of inspectors.

(1)Subject to the provisions of section 19 and this section, an inspector may, for the purpose of carrying into effect any of the relevant statutory provisions within the field of responsibility of the enforcing authority which appointed him, exercise the powers set out in subsection (2) below.

(2)The powers of an inspector referred to in the preceding subsection are the following, namely—

(a)at any reasonable time (or, in a situation which in his opinion is or may be dangerous, at any time) to enter any premises which he has reason to believe it is necessary for him to enter for the purpose mentioned in subsection (1) above;

(b)to take with him a constable if he has reasonable cause to apprehend any serious obstruction in the execution of his duty;

(c)without prejudice to the preceding paragraph, on entering any premises by virtue of paragraph (a) above to take with him— (i)any other person duly authorised by his (the inspector’s) enforcing authority; and (ii)any equipment or materials required for any purpose for which the power of entry is being exercised;

(d)to make such examination and investigation as may in any circumstances be necessary for the purpose mentioned in subsection (1) above;

(e)as regards any premises which he has power to enter, to direct that those premises or any part of them, or anything therein, shall be left undisturbed (whether generally or in particular respects) for so long as is reasonably necessary for the purpose of any examination or investigation under paragraph (d) above;

(f)to take such measurements and photographs and make such recordings as he considers necessary for the purpose of any examination or investigation under paragraph (d) above;

(g)to take samples of any articles or substances found in any premises which he has power to enter, and of the atmosphere in or in the vicinity of any such premises;

(h)in the case of any article or substance found in any premises which he has power to enter, being an article or substance which appears to him to have caused or to be likely to cause danger to health or safety, to cause it to be dismantled or subjected to any process or test (but not so as to damage or destroy it unless this is in the circumstances necessary for the purpose mentioned in subsection (1) above);

(i)in the case of any such article or substance as is mentioned in the preceding paragraph, to take possession of it and detain it for so long as is necessary for all or any of the following purposes, namely— (i)to examine it and do to it anything which he has power to do under that paragraph; (ii)to ensure that it is not tampered with before his examination of it is completed; (iii)to ensure that it is available for use as evidence in any proceedings for an offence under any of the relevant statutory provisions or any proceedings relating to a notice under section 21 or 22;

(j)to require any person whom he has reasonable cause to believe to be able to give any information relevant to any examination or investigation under paragraph (d) above to answer (in the absence of persons other than a person nominated by him to be present and any persons whom the inspector may allow to be present) such questions as the inspector thinks fit to ask and to sign a declaration of the truth of his answers;

(k)to require the production of, inspect, and take copies of or of any entry in— (i)any books or documents which by virtue of any of the relevant statutory provisions are required to be kept; and (ii)any other books or documents which it is necessary for him to see for the purposes of any examination or investigation under paragraph (d) above;

(l)to require any person to afford him such facilities and assistance with respect to any matters or things within that person’s control or in relation to which that person has responsibilities as are necessary to enable the inspector to exercise any of the powers conferred on him by this section;

(m)any other power which is necessary for the purpose mentioned in subsection (1) above.

[…]

Law / United Kingdom / Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

The Act introduced measures to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of workers and also of third parties in connection with the activities of persons at work, including imposing liability on employers for failure to ensure adequately safe workplaces. The Act imposes general duties on a wide variety of people, including employers, employees, the self-employed, contractors, suppliers of goods and substances for use at work and persons who control, manage or maintain work premises.

The general principles set out in the Act have been extensively supplemented through the exercise of the Government’s discretion to make more detailed provision by way of Statutory Instruments (such as the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999), resulting in a broad regime covering health and safety at work which is supervised by the Health & Safety Executive and backed by criminal sanctions enshrined in the Act.

The Act applies in England and Wales, and in part in Scotland and Northern Ireland . Under the power designated to the Secretary of State under s. 84(3), the Act has been extended by Order in Council to certain engineering and drilling activities in UK territorial waters, such as offshore installations, wells, pipelines and mines extending into territorial waters.

However, the definition of employment in s. 52 is not all-encompassing, as the Act does not extend to employment on board ships in the command of a master, or to domestic workers (s. 51).

Liability explicitly extends to bodies corporate (s. 37) and provides for individual as well as collective liability for those in managerial positions.