Its common around here, to see people being essentially made to work when health and safety law says they shouldn't, from employer pressure.

Two examples:

  • people made to work despite inadequate work precautions for covid last year.
  • a local window cleaning company that's currently sending employees out on 7 metre ladders during Storm Eunice, with predicted 75 mph gusts for most of the day and a "red weather" stay home warning even for people not perched 2.5 floors up in the air. And who says when phoned "I'm not telling them a thing: they're working today!"

Ideally employees themselves should use their rights. But many may feel unable to.

So does the UK legal and enforcement framework governing employment and safety at work, provide any practical way to intervene or get anything done, prior to a person being hurt?

Update: I should clarify that in this question, I'm not involved with the companies doing this, so I don't have more leverage directly with them, than any member of the public logging a complaint, and I don't have social media to get traction there.

  • Phone the HSE instead of posting here.
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 11:16
  • I doubt that results in any quick action, or action at all, for small companies. Looking for realistic routes that may exist (whether formal, r just pragmatic but informal, or other means. The criterion is they may realistically have an effect and be worth undertaking,so to speak)
    – Stilez
    Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 21:54

1 Answer 1


In theory, options include:

  1. Making an informal complaint to management. Sounds like this would be ignored, and might result in you losing your job.
  2. Making a formal complaint to management. Probably as (1) although provides a bit more of a documentation trail.
  3. Contacting your union or other workplace association. I suspect you don't have one.
  4. Refusing to work on the basis that conditions are unsafe. Almost certainly results in you losing your job; if the violations are as egregious as you make out, you'd quite probably win at an employment tribunal but that's almost always a pyrrhic victory.
  5. Formally reporting the issue to the Health and Safety Executive. Probably not going to result in any quick action.
  6. Reporting the issue to any relevant trade association. Again probably not going to result in any quick action.

Practically, the answer to your main question is "no"; the general idea here is that the post-hoc enforcement mechanisms if something does happen (i.e. the HSE will throw the book at the employer) are strong enough to discourage this kind of behaviour. It's obviously not working in this case, but there will always be people to try to push the boundaries in this way.

  • I'm not an employee. Updated OP to clarify this.
    – Stilez
    Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 11:07
  • 1
    You missed out 7. Sue your employer from your hospital bed and 8. Document the issue so that your dependents can sue your employer after your funeral. Commented Feb 21, 2022 at 15:53

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