Serious failings found at hand car wash firms across South East

July 7, 2023

Serious failings found at hand car wash firms across South East

From our colleagues at Barbour EHS.

Serious health and safety breaches were found by inspectors at 20 hand car wash businesses in West Sussex and Kent.

The HSE inspected hand car washes around the counties as part of an inspection campaign. In Mid Sussex and Crawley, they found failings at each site they visited and failings were found at half the sites visited in Kent.

Faulty sockets, damaged cabling, and defective equipment were just some of the common issues HSE inspectors found.

HSE says businesses are failing to protect their staff and customers as a new wave of inspections began (w/c 19 June 2023).

The two-day inspection campaign ran in May and was in response to persistent safety problems with hand car wash businesses across the country. It follows the recent prosecution by HSE of a car valeting company in the North East of England. The inspection campaign will now move on to East Sussex and Surrey.

Electrical safety

The majority of issues identified related to electrical safety such as faulty sockets, damaged cabling, and defective electrical equipment. Inspectors also found some businesses didn’t have Employers Liability (Compulsory) Insurance in place while others lacked basic toilet and other staff welfare facilities.

Principal Inspector Emma Stiles, who is leading the campaign, said that the results reinforced HSE’s concerns about basic safety in the industry. “Hand car washes have been identified as an area of concern for some time,” she said.

“The fact basic safety issues for were found at the majority of the premises we have visited so far have borne this out. A number of Prohibition Notices have been served meaning that there was an immediate serious risk of injury to staff and members of the public.

“Faulty electrical sockets and wiring are putting workers and the public at risk of serious injury from contact with electricity.

“Business owners need to understand the implications of cutting corners around safety.”

From 19 June, the HSE campaign targeted other areas, including East Sussex (from Lewes to Bexhill-on-Sea) and Surrey (Elmbridge and Runneymede). The HSE is asking the public to be vigilant when using car washes and to report any issues to the regulator.

June 2023

Our Comment

The need to maintain car wash safety is of paramount importance for both car owners and car wash operators and this case again reiterates the importance of ensuring that those responsible for running them complete comprehensive risk assessments which identify hazards and their associated risks and crucially, identifying those responsible for implementing risk mitigation measures.


At William Martin, we bring unparalleled health & safety expertise and powerful technology to the table. Whatever your sector and wherever you are, we give you the support you need to keep compliant, strong, and successful.

This content has been produced in association with our sister company, Barbour.

For all enquiries, please contact us or call our team on 0203 819 8829.

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