Improvement and Prohibition Notices: What’s the Difference?

2 mins

Posted on 15 Apr 2014

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Improvement and prohibition notices are methods of enforcing health and safety laws. Here we take a look at the difference between the two.

Improvement notices

An improvement notice can be served where an inspector is of the opinion that a person is contravening health and safety laws, or has contravened health and safety laws in circumstances that make it likely that the contravention will continue or be repeated. The notice requires the recipient to take steps to remedy the breach.

The notice should:

  • state that the inspector is of that opinion;
  • specify the health and safety law in question;
  • give particulars of the reasons why the inspector is of that opinion;
  • require the person to remedy the contravention or the matters occasioning it; and
  • specify the period for compliance. This should be not less than 21 days from the date the notice was served. Any appeal against the notice should be lodged with the employment tribunal in this period.

The notice should not direct a duty holder to go beyond what is legally required of them.

If an appeal is brought against the improvement notice, the operation of the notice is suspended until the appeal is either heard or withdrawn.

The provisions regarding improvement notices are contained in Section 21 Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Prohibition notices

A prohibition notice can be served in relation to activities which are being, or are likely to be, carried on, where an inspector is of the opinion that the activities involve a risk of serious injury. The notice requires an immediate cessation of the unsafe activity.

A prohibition notice should:

  • state that the inspector is of that opinion;
  • specify the matters which in his/her opinion give, or will give, rise to the risk; and
  • direct that the activity should not be carried on by or under the control of the person on whom the notice is served unless the matters giving rise to the inspector’s opinion have been remedied.

As with improvement notices, any appeal must be brought within 21 days and lodged with the employment tribunal and can result in the notice being cancelled, confirmed or modified.

Provisions relating to the service of prohibition notices are set out in sections 22 and 23 Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.


Peter De Maria

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Tina Wisener

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Dan Begbie-Clench

  • Partner & Head of Canary Wharf Office
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