Health and safety enforcement powers and policy


Our inspectors have a number of powers given to them by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which range from giving advice and information through to prosecution in the courts.

Our aim is firm but fair enforcement of health and safety law. Many deficiencies can be dealt with before formal enforcement becomes necessary.

If necessary, we will take action on those who break health and safety legislation, as this puts both passengers and workers at risk.

As the economic regulator, we also enforce economic regulation of the railways.

Our health and safety enforcement policy statement is an important document explaining how we will enforce health and safety law. In order to provide a framework which assists inspectors in making consistent enforcement decisions, we have developed the ORR Enforcement Management Model (ORR EMM). This sets out factors to be considered when deciding whether or not to take enforcement action and what level of enforcement action should be taken. 

What enforcement powers do we have?

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We can take several types of enforcement action:

  • information and advice – a verbal, or written warning of non-compliance;
  • improvement notices –  requests to making specific improvements within a set timescale;
  • prohibition notices – completely stopping work until an issue has been addressed;
  • issue cautions –  statements issued by our inspectors and accepted in writing by the dutyholder, that the dutyholder has committed an offence for which there is a realistic prospect of conviction;
  • prosecution – the final stage where we take action under health and safety legislation. Cases can be prepared against both companies and individuals. They can be heard in either magistrates or crown courts. Those being prosecuted can be fined, although breaches of enforcement notices can result in prison sentences.

Health and safety enforcement policy

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Read our health and safety enforcement policy statement, which explains the purposes and principles behind what we do.

Our aim is to protect the health, safety and welfare of people at work. To safeguard others, mainly passengers and members of the public who may be exposed to risks related to the operation of guided transport systems.

We are not bound by any enforcement approach taken by the Health and Safety Commission (HSC), HSE or local authorities. Nevertheless, it is appropriate that a consistent approach is taken to enforcement across all industry sectors and our enforcement policy is consistent with that issued by the HSC to the HSE and local authorities.

The appropriate use of enforcement and prosecution powers is important, both to secure compliance with the law and to ensure that those who have duties under it may be held to account for failures to safeguard health, safety and welfare.

The ultimate purpose of our enforcement policy is to ensure that duty holders manage and control risks effectively, thus preventing harm.

Other enforcement roles

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We are also the enforcing authority for the interoperability, rail vehicle accessibility and train driving licences and certificates regulations, and our HSWA enforcement policy statement also sets out the way in which we will ensure compliance with these statutory requirements.

Where can I find details of notices and prosecutions

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We hold a public register giving details of when we issue improvement notices, prohibition notices and prosecutions.