Health and Safety at Work


Employers are legally required to ensure that work premises are safe and that employees are able to carry out their work safely. This duty extends to making sure all staff members are competent and safety conscious, as well as ensuring that any equipment and/or machinery provided is adequate and appropriate. If an employer does not take reasonable care in respect of these requirements, they may be subject to numerous legal claims by employees. However, employees also have duties in respect of maintaining a safe place of work.
Since 6 April 2009, the majority of new businesses no longer need to register with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), although businesses that work with hazardous substances or within hazardous industries are still required to do so.
Health and Safety Policies
All employers are required to have a health and safety policy. If you employ five or more people you must have a written health and safety policy statement and a record of your health and safety arrangements so that you and your workforce are clear about where responsibilities for effective administration of the health and safety policy lie. If your business employs fewer than five people you are not legally required to have a written health and safety policy statement, but the responsibility to ensure safe working remains unchanged.
The policy should be developed in consultation with employees and must be reviewed and updated to ensure that it remains compliant with current law and takes into account any changes to working practices. Although it is possible to use a ‘template policy’, employers are advised to develop their own policy that addresses their individual requirements.
Employers are required to provide a workplace that does not pose a health and safety risk and to this end should train, supervise and support their staff. All businesses except sole traders and very small companies that employ only their majority shareholder must have current Employers’ Liability Insurance, the certificate for which must be on display at the place of work. Alternatively, you can display the certificate electronically, provided all those covered by the insurance have reasonable access to it in that format. Adequate steps should be taken to control the risk of fire and to provide fire escape routes. Employers’ duties in relation to the health and safety of their employees include psychological as well as physical health and in recent years there has been increased focus on the growing problem of stress and long-term workplace absences.
Risk Assessment
Employers have a legal duty to carry out risk assessments to identify any aspects of the particular business, the work carried out or the workplace itself that could cause harm to employees or members of the public. A risk assessment is a thorough examination of the potential hazards at a place of work, identifying who might be at risk of harm and what could happen. Once the hazards have been identified, preventive measures must be put in place to reduce the risk of harm.
Accident Reporting
Reporting requirements vary depending on the severity of the accident. All accidents – including some near accidents – must be recorded in an accident book. If an employee suffers an accident or illness caused by work, details of this must be included in the accident book. All employers must provide qualified first-aiders and tell employees how they can access first-aid treatment at work.
More serious accidents must be reported to the HSE or the local authority immediately. As well as fatal accidents, these include accidents involving major injuries, those arising out of dangerous occurrences and those that prevent a worker from working for more than three days.
The HSE publishes helpful guidance on all aspects of health and safety law. See
Contact us if you would like individual advice on how health and safety law affects your business.

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