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Farmers, beware the HSE magnifying glass in 2019

The HSE has announced that this year it will focus more inspections on high risk industries, including agriculture in 2019. Here is what you need to know to ensure that your business does not get caught out.

According to HSE data, agriculture has the poorest record of any industry in Britain with a fatal injury rate of around 18 times higher than any other industry.

The HSE plan to carry out around 20,000 proactive inspections to prevent harm, with a focus on specific issues and activities found in high risk industries.

At least 500 of these inspections will focus on the agriculture sector and will review health and safety standards on farms across the country.

"Farmers are being told that they must pay closer attention to how they manage workplace risk or face serious penalties"

What does an inspection involve?

A HSE inspection can take place without notice. Inspectors have the power to enter the farm premises and take photographs or samples, and also require that both documents and records are produced. Investigators may also ask members of staff to answer questions or provide information, particularly if an accident or fatality has occurred.

What are the consequences of being inspected?

If a breach of health and safety law is found there are a number of actions that the HSE can take:

  • Issue an enforcement notice requiring a certain action to be taken before work continues.
  • Raise a ‘fee for intervention’ and charge your business for their time spent inspecting the business and identifying any issues.
  • Commence a criminal prosecution against the business or against you as an individual.

If you are served with enforcement notice you may want to take legal advice in order to ensure that it is correct and that you are able to comply with it. Simply ignoring it or failing to comply is a criminal offence and further action may then be taken.

Health and safety breaches, and prosecutions, can have a significant impact on your business both financially and in terms of reputation, so inspections or breaches should be taken very seriously.

What does a good farm look like?

In order to deal with inspections and avoid any negative consequences, good health and safety management is fundamental for any farming business. Risk assessments should be carried out for all of the real risks related to the business. Common risks to health and safety can include:

  • Working with livestock
  • Falls from height
  • Children
  • Working with Machinery

It is important that you have put procedures in place to manage these risks and reduce them as far as reasonably practicable. You should regularly review your procedures to ensure that they are up to date.

What should I do if I am inspected or investigated for an alleged breach?

An investigation and subsequent prosecution can have serious consequences for businesses and individuals. There are a number of different offences and sentences including unlimited fines and prison sentences.

If you or your business face investigation or prosecution then you should seek immediate expert representation. In some cases your insurance company may be able to cover the costs of representation, which is why you should contact your insurer immediately.

The Regulatory & Corporate Defence team at Lupton Fawcett are experts at dealing with HSE investigations and prosecutions. Our team can support and advise you throughout any investigation and subsequent court proceedings, to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your business.

For further advice or help with any of the issues raised in this article, please contact Meghan Waldron or Jeremy Scott.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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