Health and Safety legislation (A Guide for Employers)
In accordance with the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, employers are responsible for managing the health and safety of their business, and for ensuring that their employees and anyone affected by their business are protected in the areas of health, safety and welfare.
They must assess any risk in the workplace, keep affected parties aware of risks, and consult their employees on the implementation of health and safety procedures and issues.
The responsibilities of employers are further laid out in the Management of Health and Safety at work Regulations 1999, and more specific health and safety regulations, such as the Manual Handling Regulations and the Display Screen Equipment Regulations, depending on your specific industry.
Who are the Health and Safety Executive?
The Health and Safety Executive regulate and enforce health and safety in the workplace in the UK by:
- the provision of information, advice and guidance
- raising awareness of health and safety in workplaces
- granting permission for hazardous work activities
- granting licences for work that would otherwise be unlawful
- inspections and investigations
- enforcing Health and Safety laws, including penalising employers who break these laws
It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure health and safety is managed in the workplace. However, their employees have certain responsibilities too. They must:
- maintain their own health and safety and that of others at work
- co-operate with the employer in implementing health and safety at work
- follow instructions and training from the employer relating to health and safety at work
- inform their employer of anything at work that could present a risk
- inform their employer of any failings in health and safety provisions at work
Who should carry out health and safety duties?
Although the employer is directly responsible for health and safety in their business, they may appoint an employee to carry out health and safety duties in their stead.
Whoever carries out the health and safety function must be suitably competent with the necessary skills, experience and knowledge for that role.
If required, an external specialist may be brought in to assist with health and safety.
Health and safety policy
Writing and maintaining a health and safety policy is a legal requirement under Regulation 2(3) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, unless you have less than 5 employees.
A health and safety policy should state:
- the employer’s commitment to ensuring that health and safety is effectively maintained in the business
- what the employer wishes to achieve in regard to health and safety
- who is responsible for all aspects of health and safety in the business
- details of how the aims of the policy will be achieved
The health and safety policy must be made available to employees and regularly reviewed to ensure it continues to be valid.
You must control and, where possible, minimise risks in your business that could cause harm to employees or other affected individuals, by carrying out risk assessments.
The procedure for carrying out a risk assessment has 5 steps. These are:
- Identify the hazards.
- Identify who might be harmed and how.
- Evaluate the risks and take action.
- Record your findings.
- Review your risk assessment on a regular basis.
In this context, a ‘hazard’ is anything, be that an item or a process, which might cause harm. By comparison, a ‘risk’ is the possibility of someone being harmed as a result of your work, an estimation of whether that risk is high or low, and how serious the resulting harm could be.
Where there are less than 5 employees, it is not necessary to make a written record.
The employer must discuss health and safety with their employees, be that by:
- speaking to them
- holding meetings
- printed letter
and employees must be allowed to reply to these communications, raise concerns or make suggestions.
It is always wise to listen to employees as they may have insight into areas of the business and potential hazards or risks that the employer is unaware of.
Training and information
Information and clear instructions must be provided for all employees to ensure they can work safely and reduce risks to health.
The information should be in a format that is easily understood and available.
The level and form of training required will vary depending on the industry the business is part of and the related jobs that the employees perform.
It should take place during working hours and be free to employees.
Non-employees, such as contractors or visitors to your workplace, for instance, have a right to the same health and safety information as your employees.
Workplace facilities, first aid, accidents and ill health
All employees must be provided with acceptable workplace facilities, including those employees with disabilities. These facilities can be categorised as followed:
- Welfare: suitably equipped toilets and hand basins, drinking water, cloakroom or some place to store clothes (especially if employees are required to change their clothes for work purposes), an area for rest and eating.
- Health: good ventilation, reasonable working temperature, suitable lighting, sufficient space, suitable workstations and seating, a clean place to work with bins provided.
- Safety: well maintained premises and equipment, floors and travel routes that are free from obstruction, windows that open and are clean, where doors or walls are transparent they are protected or made of safety material.
There must be a first-aid provision in your workplace. The minimum requirements are a suitably filled first-aid box, an appointed first-aider or a responsible member of staff, and information for employees on the first-aid arrangements.
Any first-aider must have the appropriate training by an approved organisation and hold a qualification in first-aid at work or emergency first-aid at work.
Employers must keep a record of certain injuries, incidents and cases of work-related disease.
Do I need to display the Health and Safety law poster?
If a business has employees, then the Health and Safety law poster must be displayed in the workplace or a copy of the related pocket card must be given to each employee.
The poster lays out UK health and safety laws with a list of employer and employee obligations.
Employers liability insurance
If an employee becomes ill as a result of the work they do, or are injured through work, they may claim compensation against their employer.
Employer liability insurance will protect a business against any such claim and is a requirement for most businesses with employees.
Staying informed on Health and Safety issues
It is the employer’s responsibility to remain up to date with any changes to Health and Safety legislation that will affect their business and their health and safety procedures.
The best way to do this is to receive Health and Safety Executive (HSE) news.
How legal advice can help
With ongoing changes to Health and Safety legislation, and the need to not only fit your health and safety procedures to your individual business but also keep up to date with developments in legislation for your specific industry, managing health and safety in your business can be a demanding task.
Take specialist legal advice to assist in creating the required documentation, carrying out risk assessments, and evaluating your specific health and safety situation.