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Research & Briefings

Local Authorities

This page provides information on the responsibility of local authorities to enforce work-related health and safety law .

The Health and Safety Executive is the main body enforcing work-related safety law in Britain. However the HSE is only responsible for enforcing health and safety law in certain premises; the remaining premises are enforced by Local Authorities.

Britain is divided into over 400 different local authorities. Each of these has an Environmental Health Department (EHD) which employs Environmental Health officers (EHO). An EHO might be responsible for more than just work-related health and safety - since Local Authority also have responsibility for the enforcement of food safety law.

Local Authority Enforced Premises
The Responsibility of Local Authorities
Supervision by the HSC

Local Authority Enforced Premises
Schedule 1 to the Health and Safety (Enforcing Authority) Regulations 1998 sets out those premises which Local Authorities are responsible for enforcement. These are the premises that are responsible for

  1. The sale of goods, or the storage of goods for retail or wholesale distribution, except -
    (a) at container depots where the main activity is the storage of goods in the course of transit to or from dock premises, an airport or a railway;
    (b) where the main activity is the sale or storage for wholesale distribution of any substance or preparation dangerous for supply;
    (c) where the main activity is the sale or storage of water or sewage or their by-products or natural or town gas;

    and for the purposes of this paragraph where the main activity carried on in premises is the sale and fitting of motor car tyres, exhausts, windscreens or sunroofs the main activity shall be deemed to be the sale of goods.

  2. The display or demonstration of goods at an exhibition for the purposes of offer or advertisement for sale.

  3. Office activities.

  4. Catering services.

  5. The provision of permanent or temporary residential accommodation including the provision of a site for caravans or campers.

  6. Consumer services provided in a shop except dry cleaning or radio and television repairs, and in this paragraph "consumer services" means services of a type ordinarily supplied to persons who receive them otherwise than in the course of a trade, business or other undertaking carried on by them (whether for profit or not).

  7. Cleaning (wet or dry) in coin operated units in launderettes and similar premises.

  8. The use of a bath, sauna or solarium, massaging, hair transplanting, skin piercing, manicuring or other cosmetic services and therapeutic treatments, except where they are carried out under the supervision or control of a registered medical practitioner, a dentist registered under the Dentists Act 1984[19], a physiotherapist, an osteopath or a chiropractor.

  9. The practice or presentation of the arts, sports, games, entertainment or other cultural or recreational activities except where the main activity is the exhibition of a cave to the public.

  10. The hiring out of pleasure craft for use on inland waters.

  11. The care, treatment, accommodation or exhibition of animals, birds or other creatures, except where the main activity is horse breeding or horse training at a stable, or is an agricultural activity or veterinary surgery.

  12. The activities of an undertaker, except where the main activity is embalming or the making of coffins.

  13. Church worship or religious meetings.

  14. The provision of car parking facilities within the perimeter of an airport.

  15. The provision of child care, or playgroup or nursery facilities.
If you would like to see the whole of these regulations, click here

Responsibility of Local Authorities
Section 18(4) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that in relation to those premises to which it is given responsibility, each local authority should:

"make arrangements for the enforcement … of the relevant statutory provisions"
"perform that duty … in accordance with such guidance as the Commission may give them"

The Health and Safety Commission therefore has the power to issue guidance to Local Authorities which have a duty to act in accordance with them.

If you would like to download the HSC guidance, please click here (PDF)

The guidance states, in summary that:

"In the view of HSC, the following elements are essential for an LA to adequately discharge its duty as an enforcing authority:
a clear published statement of enforcement policy and practice;
a system for prioritised planned inspection activity according to hazard and risk, and consistent with any advice given by the Health and Safety Executive and Local Authorities Enforcement Liaison Committee (HELA);
a service plan detailing the LA's priorities and its aims and objectives for the enforcement of health and safety;
the capacity to investigate workplace accidents and to respond to complaints by employees and others against allegations of health and safety failures;
arrangements for benchmarking performance with peer LAs;
provision of a trained and competent inspectorate; and
arrangements for liaison and co-operation in respect of the Lead Authority Partnership Scheme."

More specifically the guidance requires:

the LA to "ensure their approach to enforcement is consistent with the policy set out in the current HSC Statement on Enforcement Policy"

the LA, in managing its enforcement processes, should aim to:

fulfil the HSC/HELA objective of reducing risks and protecting people;
implement HSC/HELA aims, priority programmes and have regard to the Revitalising Health and Safety Strategy Statement published in June 2000;
achieve the balance of enforcement processes which optimises overall effectiveness;
ensure the immediate control of serious risk and promote continuous improvement and long-term compliance;
work with duty holders, employees and their representatives by establishing effective dialogue to encourage open contribution and co-operation in achieving appropriate standards of health and safety;
use the information supplied by the duty holder and employee representatives to help target enforcement activity proportionately and appropriately to promote cost-effective compliance;
maintain transparent arrangements to promote public confidence;
meet stakeholders' expectations and current Government response performance targets;
collect, analyse, and disseminate information to improve the effectiveness of processes, law, policy and guidance and inform stakeholders;
work in collaboration with other regulatory authorities, eg HSE, Petroleum Licensing Authority, Police (and Procurator Fiscal in Scotland).

Supervision by the HSC
Section 45 of the 1974 Act provides powers to the Commission if in its view the Local Authority is failing to perform "any of their enforcement functions"

The HSC guidance summarises HSC's powers in relation to this:
"If an LA fails to meet its legal obligations under section 18 of the HSW Act, the Secretary of State may, after considering a report submitted to him by HSC, cause a local inquiry to be held. If the Secretary of State is satisfied by such an inquiry that an LA has failed to perform any of its enforcement functions, he may make an order declaring the authority to be in default. The order may direct the authority to perform their enforcement functions in a specified manner within a specified period of time.
If the defaulting authority fails to comply with such an order under section 45 of the HSW Act, the Secretary of State may enforce the order, or make an order transferring the enforcement functions of the defaulting authority to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). In such a case, HSE's expenses are paid by the defaulting authority."

Within the HSE, there is a Local Authority Unit in which there is a "Health and Safety Executive/Local Authority Enforcement Liaison Committee" - otherwise known as HELA. The HSC guidance mentioned above is supplemented by guidance produced by HELA. These include the following documents.

Open Government
Safety Reps
Inspection Report Forms
Road Traffic
Safety policies
Liaison with the HSE

If you want to access all the circulars, click here


CCA/TUC Conference

The CCA recently held a conference (along with the TUC) on "Law Enforcement and Corporate Accountability" issues. One paper concerned Enforcement by Local Authorities. If you would like to download this paper, please click here [AndyLucas.pdf]


Home -> Research & Briefings -> Government and Regulatory Bodies -> Local Authorities
Page last updated on October 19, 2003