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Complaints about the HSE

How to Complain about the Health and Safety Executive

This page explains how you can:

  • complain to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE);

  • how you can make a complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman if you are not satisfied with the response from the Health and Safety Executive

  • how to take out a 'judicial review' of a decision made by the HSE

Other organisations - other than the Health and Safety Executive - are also involved in inspection, investigations and prosecutions arising out of health and safety issues. If you have complaints concerning any one of the organisations below, please click on the name of the relevant organisation and this will provide you with information on how to make a complaint.

The Centre for Corporate Accountability can assist you in making a complaint (or assessing whether a complaint is appropriate). It is best if you could first e-mail us with some basic details of your concerns and we will then get back to you. Click Here to e-mail us. If you want to speak to us or contact us by post, click here for our contact details.

If you would like to see copies of reports (arising out of complaints against the Health and Safety Executive) that have been published since 1990 by the Ombudsman, Click Here

HSE’s Own Complaints Policy
The HSE has a formal complaints policy. It is always best to go through this channel before considering making a complaint to the ombudsman. The HSE’s policy states that:

"If you have contacted us and are unhappy with the way we have dealt with you, we want to know. We want to put things right, and we always welcome suggestions to help us improve our performance."

The policy sets out a two-stage process:

contact the manager of the person who you are dealing with whose decision or conduct you are concerned about.

We would suggest that you put your complaint in writing.

The HSE’s policy states that the manager

"will certainly investigate your complaint and tell you what they are going to do about it. Most complaints are settled in this way, very often immediately, If this is not the case, we always aim to respond within ten working days."

If you are still not satisfied with the response, you should write to the
Director General of HSE, setting out your complaint.

He can be contacted by e-mail or at the address below:

Timothy Walker
Health and Safety Executive
Rose Court
2 Southwark Bridge

According to HSE’s policy he will "see that your complaint is followed up promptly and fairly."

If you are not satisfied by this response then you should make a complaint to the Ombudsmen.

Making a complaint to the Ombudsman

The Parliamentary Ombudsman – otherwise known as the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration - deals with complaints from members of the public who say either that:

the HSE has denied them information which they say should have been provided to them according to the Open Government Code and HSE's own policy. To see what information the HSE should disclose, click here;
they have suffered injustice because of maladministration by a government department or a public body.

The Ombudsman is an "officer of the House of Commons" – not a civil servant – and works independently of the government.

The Ombudsman can investigate any complaints of a 'failure to disclose information' or "maladministration" against bodies like the HSE. Maladministration can mean the wrong application of rules, or simply poor administration. Examples of maladministration include

Avoidable delay;
faulty procedures or failing to follow correct procedures;
not telling you about any rights of appeal you have;
unfairness, bias or prejudice;
giving advice which is misleading or inadequate;
refusing to answer reasonable questions;
discourtesy, and failure to apologise properly for errors;
mistakes in handling your claims;
not offering an adequate remedy where one is due;

Below are some examples of maladministration which have been investigated by the Ombudsman:

Failure to investigate an injury;
Unreasonable delays during the coarse of an investigation;
Failing to undertake an adequate investigation;
failing to interview a company director;
Failure to give proper consideration to a prosecution of directors;
Failure to respond appropriately to a complainant;
failure to provide information on the HSE’s approach to a health and safety issue

The Parliamentary Ombudsman deals with complaints concerning the HSE in England, Wales and Scotland.

It should be noted that there are certain things that the ombudsman cannot investigate:

•  Complaints which are about government policy or the content of legislation. Policy is for the Government to determine; and legislation is for Parliament.
•  Whether the decision not to prosecute was an appropriate one; however they can investigate how the HSE went about deciding that a prosecution was not appropriate;

Making the complaint
You have to make your complaint through your Member of Parliament.
If you don’t know who your Member of Parliament is, or how to contact him, click here

You should try to do this within 12 months from the time you became aware of the matters you are complaining about.

However, the Ombudsman has discretion to investigate a case even if the 12 months has passed.

You must fill out a special form. You can see this form by clicking here – which takes you to the Ombudsman’s website – or alternatively, you can download it by clicking here (PDF)

When you fill out the form, you should include supporting evidence, such as records of any correspondence with the body under investigation.

You should ask your MP to forward it to the Parliamentary Ombudsman

What will the Ombudsman do about the complaint?
The Ombudsman will first decide whether or not to conduct a formal investigation.

If the Ombudsman decides to investigate your complaint, he will inform your MP.

All contact with the Ombudsman goes through the MP, so he or she should be able to keep you updated with the progress of the investigation.

You may be called by the Ombudsman to be interviewed during the investigation, but only after the decision to investigate your complaint has been made, so it is important that all supporting evidence you can call upon is included in your initial application.

What happens after the investigation?
After investigating your complaint, the Ombudsman can make one of three findings. He can conclude that your complaint was wholly justified, partly justified, or not justified.

If the conclusion is that the complaint was justified, the Ombudsman can recommend the remedy, or redress, that he sees fit, based on putting you back in the position that you would have been prior to the act of which you have complained.

In practice, this can mean, in some cases, compensation, and in others an apology. It depends on the facts of the case in question.

To go to the Parliamentary Ombudsman Website, Click Here

Judicial Review
In February 2002, we shall be putting information on the website on what circumstances allow you to take a legal challenge against the HSE. Until then contact us if you would like further information.

Page last updated on June 9, 2003