What happens if… I am unsure of my health and safety obligations

This month has seen the UK focus on employee safety, starting with Construction Health and Safety Week which took place between 6 – 10 May, but despite various campaigns in recent years, many business owners remain unaware of their responsibilities..

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 employers have a duty to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees is protected.

As an employer, you must ensure that you are compliant with the Act.  Hethertons advise that you should follow nine basic steps to ensure you are meeting your duties:

  1. Provide a safe system of work.
  2. Use equipment, plant and machinery safely.
  3. Hire or train safe and competent people as employers are liable for the actions of their staff and managers.
  4. Conduct and regularly review risk assessments and take steps to eliminate or control risks.
  5. Inform workers fully about all potential hazards associated with any work process or activity, including providing instruction, training and supervision.
  6. Appoint a ‘competent person’ responsible for health and safety, who can oversee day-to-day safety management and safety inspections.
  7. Consult with their workforce on health and safety matters.
  8. Provide adequate facilities for staff welfare at work.
  9. Ensure a safe place of work.

If you have five or more employees you must also have a written health and safety policy. You also have a legal duty to display the Health and Safety Executive’s approved poster in a prominent position in each workplace or provide workers with a copy of the approved leaflet that outlines British health and safety law.

You must also report certain workplace injuries, near-misses and cases of work-related disease to the Health and Safety Executive. If you have more than 10 employees, you must also keep an accident book, which can help you to identify patterns of accidents and injuries, so you can better assess and manage risk in your workplace.

There is a further duty on employers to ensure that the health and safety of persons other than employees who use the premises are protected and where necessary conduct risk assessments and act to reduce the risks.

The phrase ‘health and safety gone mad’ is frequently bandied about but failing to meet your duties as an employer to provide a safe workplace could lead to significant fines and or criminal prosecution if you break a health and safety law, regardless of if anyone is actually injured.

If workers think their employer is exposing them to risks or is not carrying out their legal duties regards to health and safety, and if this has been pointed out to them but no satisfactory response has been received, they can make a complaint to the Health and Safety Executive.

With this being the case, it is important that employers are compliant with health and safety regulations. If you would like assistance with training or carrying out risk assessments, or would like Hethertons to review your compliance, please call David Scott, on 01904 528223 to see how we can help you.