How to Prepare for an HSE Inspection

How to Prepare for an HSE Inspection

Published February 28, 2024

4 minute read

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a well-known regulator for health and safety at the workplace in the United Kingdom, conducts regular inspections to protect the wellbeing of employees. Their mission is to protect employees from hazards and incidents, no matter where they work, by ensuring companies comply with regulations. Recently, the HSE has carried out several inspection campaigns on hazardous substances like silica dust, wood dust, construction dust, as well as metalworking fluids. 

Read on to find out more about: 

  • previous HSE inspections 
  • key inspection areas and deficiencies 
  • common reasons for failing 
  • how you can prepare for future HSE inspections 

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Previous HSE inspections

Dust Kills is the name of a recent HSE campaign focused on protecting workers from silica dust, wood dust, as well as construction dust arising from common construction activities and manufacturing plants. Why? Many employees suffer from respiratory issues, including lung disease because of exposure to these harmful forms of dust.  

In fact, 80% of organisations on the Isle of Wight were found non-compliant with HSE regulations. According to HSE’s article, HSE targets construction workers’ lung health with a nationwide inspection campaign, chief inspector Michael Thomas, stated, “We are urging employers and workers to take the necessary precautions today to protect their long-term lung health.”  

Key inspection areas

Over 1,000 inspections took place under this campaign between May and July in 2023. The following key inspection areas were investigated: 

Construction dust, wood dust, and silica dust

Construction dust, wood dust, and silica dust were the main focus of this campaign. The HSE thoroughly inspected ventilation systems, respiratory protection measures, as well as the organisation’s compliance with Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations 

Several deficiencies were uncovered after completing these inspections such as ineffective risk assessments, inadequate training and monitoring of exposure levels, as well as a lack of appropriate control measures.  

Yellow digger moving pebbles creating smoke

Metalworking fluids

The newest HSE campaign is centralised on hazards arising from metalworking fluids. Exposure through inhalation or direct contact can cause skin irritation and lung diseases including asthma, bronchitis, and breathing difficulties.  

Inspection areas include workplaces using metalworking fluids. The HSE is focused on the handling, storage and disposal of these items within such organisations. They also concentrate on controls put in place to prevent exposure to employees through mist, skin, or aerosols.  

So far, the main issues uncovered during this inspection campaign are poor personal protective equipment (PPE), inadequate control measures to limit exposure to mist and aerosol, and poorly maintained machinery.  

Common reasons for failing

We’ve highlighted uncovered deficiencies, but let’s take a closer look at the common reasons organisations failed their HSE inspections during the Dust Kills campaign: 

Inadequate risk assessments

Many organisations did not have thorough risk assessments in place to protect employees from hazardous substances. This led to insufficient control measures, exposing employees to potential harm. 

Insufficient control measures

The hierarchy of controls was not really applied in certain organisations to best mitigate hazards. The HSE found that employers used insufficient control measures when it came to housekeeping, local exhaust ventilation system maintenance, and personal protective equipment (PPE) selection. 

Lack of training

The HSE also noticed gaps in training when it came to the handling and usage of certain substances and even PPE. It’s vital employees know the potential risks which come with possible exposure to dust and how to properly mitigate them. 

Poor monitoring and recordkeeping

Finally, poor monitoring of exposure levels and inefficient recordkeeping led to noncompliance with HSE regulations. Employers are responsible for tracking how long and how much employees are possibly exposed to a hazardous substance, as well as keeping accurate records of risk assessments, training, and more.  

Two workers wearing white construction hats looking at a document

How you can prepare for future HSE inspections

It can be tough to prepare for regulatory inspections, so our team would love to help. Now that you’re aware of all the failings found within organisations, here are four things you can do to prepare for future HSE inspections:  

1. Conduct regular risk assessments

It’s vital that you conduct regular risk assessments to help identify potential risks and hazards which may occur during daily tasks and processes. Once these risks are identified, it’s the employer’s job to put proper control measures in place to reduce them. Don’t forget to review your risk assessments at a regular cadence when certain changes within processes or substances arise.  

2. Invest in employee training

A large part of creating a safe working environment is properly training your employees. It’s your job to conduct comprehensive training to teach all employees about potential risks which may arise when working with hazardous substances and how to mitigate them. Remember, training is not a one-time thing, so make sure you’re conducting regular refresher sessions to help reinforce safety behaviours.  

3. Enhance control measures

Regularly review the control measures you’ve implemented and think about how to continuously improve your processes. As previously stated, be aware of control measures placed regarding ventilation systems and maintenance, PPE, as well as housekeeping procedures. Consider a safety software solution or other technological tools which could help streamline your operations.  

4. Implement monitoring and recordkeeping practices

Finally, make sure you implement proper systems for the surveillance and monitoring of workplace exposure levels (WEL) to effectively protect your employees. Without this, employees could unknowingly be exposed to high levels of hazardous substances which could lead to major health risks.  

Having the proper documentation and records to prove you have done everything you can to maintain a safe workplace is also crucial for your HSE inspection. Make sure you maintain accurate records of all risk assessments, corrective actions, training and more to provide as evidence for any upcoming audit.  

But wait, there's more...

Fostering a workplace where all employees feel safe and valued is of the utmost importance at any organisation. By learning from the failing areas of previous HSE inspections, you now know what to keep in mind and focus on for your upcoming inspection. 

Hoping for more? Watch our free webinar, Inspection-Ready: Achieve Chemical Safety & COSHH Compliance with Confidence, to find out more about lessons learned from past HSE inspections, requirements for COSHH compliance, how to leverage technology and data analytics for a more proactive approach, and much more.  

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Author Dina Adlouni

Dina is a Content Marketing Manager at EcoOnline who has been writing about health and safety, ESG and sustainability, as well as chemical safety for the past four years. She regularly collaborates with internal subject matter experts to create relevant and insightful content.

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