Advice & Assistance
Researh & Briefings
Deaths, Inquests & Prosecutions
Corporate  Crime & safety Database
Safety Statistics
Obtaining Safety Information
CCA Responses to Consultation Documents
CCA Advocacy
CCA Press Releases
CCA Publications
Support the CCA
Search the CCA site
Contact Us
Quick Links ->
Press Releases
Other Press Releases
What's New on CCA Site
Home Page

Embargoed: 06.00am, 25 April 2007

HSE prosecutes in only one third of
the cases that it should, internal
HSE audit shows

An internal audit undertaken by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into enforcement decisions by both HSE and Local Authority (LA) inspectors found that inspectors should be prosecuting in three times as many cases than they currently do.

The audit report, which has been obtained by the CCA under the Freedom of Information Act, and has until now not been made public concludes that there is a “serious gap” in inspectors’ implementation of HSE's own enforcement guidance. To download a copy click here.

Although. the HSE has published a short ‘summary’ of the report on its web site, this fails to show the actual level of enforcement failure uncovered by the audit team and the serious implications for the HSE.

David Bergman, Executive Director of the Centre for Corporate Accountability said:

“The report suggests that rather than prosecuting around 700 cases the HSE should be prosecuting close to 2000 cases each year. The HSE should be apologising for this failure – for the lack of accountability for bereaved families and injured workers as well as for undermining the deterrent effect which would result from effective enforcement. Real improvements to ensuring enforcement action, in line with HSE’s own policies, must be made.”

The release of this report comes at a time when HSE's own data shows an apparent increase in the rate of work-related deaths twinned with a significant decrease in the number of total prosecutions. Sharp cuts in HSE's budget were also announced earlier this month.

An HSE audit team considered a sample of 126 investigations - 70% of which involved cases investigated by HSE and 30% by Local Authority inspectors. The incidents considered mainly involved investigations into deaths, major injuries and over-three days injuries.

The audit team found that inspectors should have prosecuted in a total of 19 cases - 12 more than than the 7 cases that actually resulted in criminal charges. This is triple the number of cases than were actually prosecuted.

11 of these 12 cases involved the HSE – rather than Local Authority - investigations. Of the 11 HSE cases that did not result (but should have resulted) in a prosecution:
- one involved a death
- six involved major injuries
- two involved over-three day injuries and
- two involved dangerous occurrences

The single case involving a local authority concerned a major injury

Out of the 12 new cases that should have resulted in a prosecution:

- in one case the original investigation had resulted in “no action” at all being taken by inspectors;
- in five cases, the original investigations had resulted in only “verbal advice” being given;
- in six cases the original investigations had resulted in only an improvement notice being imposed
- and in one case the original investigation had resulted in only a prohibition notice.

The failures were identified throughout Britain – the report states that there were no geographical ‘hotspots” – and involved inspectors of differing levels of experience.

“What is of particular concern is that HSE’s own Enforcement Policy Statement only allows prosecutions to take place only in the most serious cases; if the HSE can’t be trusted to prosecute even in these cases, what confidence can the public have in the accuracy of any enforcement action taken?” asked David Bergman

The audit report also found that there were six other cases where harsher enforcement action should have been taken. One case that resulted in no action should have resulted in a letter; one verbal advice should have resulted in an improvement notice, three letters should have resulted in an improvement notice and one verbal advice should have resulted in a prohibition notice.

In total, 18 of the 126 investigations audited – that represents 16% of the total - had resulted in more lenient enforcement than should have taken place.

The report recognises that there was not a single example of “over-zealous” enforcement.

The report concluded that:

“there is a significant gap in following policies and that incident investigation should be resulting in somewhat more consistent enforcement activity that is currently the case.”

The team could only provide a “limited assurance" that:

“the system provides an adequate basis for effective control and is properly operated in practice.”

Limited assurance is defined as meaning:

“Risk Management, governance or control systems[‘are] not sufficiently developed or [that] significant level of non-compliance [have been] identified.”


The Centre for Corporate Accountability is a human rights charity advising those bereaved from work-related deaths, and working on issues of safety, law enforcement and corporate accountability.

For Press Enquiries
Centre for Corporate Accountability

0207 490 4494



Increase in number of worker deaths
In the six months between 1 April 2006 to 30 September 2007, HSE statistics published at the end of last month show that there have been 124 deaths. If this trend continues, the total annual death toll (248) will be a 17% increase on last years total of 212 deaths.
To read HSE's figures, click here

The HSE have also published statistics showing a 33% decrease in the number of prosecution taken between 2000/01 and 2004/5. The figures are:
2000/01 - 1025
2001/02 - 1059
2002/03 - 908
2003/04 - 963
2004/05 - 712
To read HSE's figures, click here

Back to the top

Home -> About the CCA
Page last updated on April 25, 2007