Role of Police and the Health & Safety Executive in Deaths in the Workplace

Whenever a work place death occurs and there are indications that an offence of manslaughter or offences other than health and safety offences have been committed, the police will investigate.

They will often work closely with the HSE but usually, in the first instance at least the police will have the primary role in an investigation.

Who Investigates Deaths or Health and Safety Breaches?

It is common for the police, in such cases, to prepare an investigation file and refer it to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).The CPS will decide if there is sufficient evidence and if it is in the public interest to prosecute. The CPS can prosecute health and safety offences, but generally it will only do so when there is also a manslaughter prosecution or a prosecution for other serious offences arising out of a work place death.

If the CPS decides not to prosecute, the prime responsibility for the investigation will ordinarily pass to the HSE.The interlinking and overlapping responsibilities of the different bodies involved are governed by a protocol which seeks to provide a framework for effective liaison between them.

The protocol is intended to; produce an early decision by the police to investigate manslaughter or other offences or to pass prime responsibility to the HSE, encourage agreement to share resources, lead to co-ordinated decisions with regard to prosecution and provide a formal record of decisions.

In practice this means that after an incident you may find that both the police and HSE are initially involved in the investigation with the police taking the lead role. After an initial flurry of activity surrounding the investigation there may be some delay of weeks or even months whilst the police prepare and submit a file to the CPS for decision on charge. If the decision is made that a charge of, say, manslaughter is appropriate then the CPS will be the prosecuting body. If the decision is made not to charge by the CPS then the HSE investigation will continue and it can be many months before that is concluded and a decision made with regard to a health and safety prosecution.

If you are being investigated either by police HSE it is essential that you obtain expert legal advice from a solicitor who has experience in all stages of the process. It can be a worrying time and having somebody who can explain in simple terms what happens and guide you through it in my experience often lifts a great burden.

Tim Andrew

I Need a Top Lawyer

Tim is a consultant solicitor at Burton Copeland with over 20 years experience in health and safety, environmental, corporate and gross negligence manslaughter, food safety, fire safety and trading standards prosecutions. As a solicitor who has previously prosecuted cases on behalf of HSE he understands exactly how cases are built against the accused, but more importantly how to defend against them.

He works as part of the expert regulatory team at Burton Copeland, based in Manchester but covering the whole of the UK providing the very best in advice to corporate and individual clients.

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