Advice Pack for Smaller Firms

Sheet 4: Health and safety at work : The law at a glance

Overview

All people have a legal right to be protected from work related risks.

In general the law imposes a range of duties of employers, the self employed and employees as well as others such as designers, manufacturers or suppliers of articles and substances for use at work. These are expressed as broad general duties in the Health and Safety at Work (HSW) Act but are spelt out in more detail in subsidiary regulations such as those dealing with the management of health and safety and specific health and safety issues.

While most modern health and safety law applies 'across-the-board', there are also additional regulations covering industry sectors such as construction, agriculture, railways, mines and quarries and major hazard and nuclear installations.

Besides laying down duties the law also gives the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Local Authority inspectors wide ranging powers - to prosecute and to issue notices halting dangerous work or requiring improvements.

Guidance on complying with the law is contained in Approved Codes of Practice (ACoPs) and HSE guidance notes. Guidance in British and International standards as well as industry guidance may also be relevant.

Some of the key requirements of health and safety law can be summarised very briefly as follows:

A - Employers

1. General Duty of Care
All employers have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees. They also have a duty to protect non-employees from risks arising out of their work activities. [Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, hereafter HSWA 1, Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, hereafter MHSW 2].

2. Health and Safety Management System
Employers must take and give effect to adequate arrangements for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of protective and preventive measures. They must record these arrangements (where five or more are employed) - for example, as part of their health and safety policy statement (see below). [MHSW]

3. Safety Policy Statement
A written policy statement must be prepared (if five or more persons are employed) covering the employer's organisation and arrangements in force for ensuring health and safety. It must be brought to the attention of all employees. [HSWA]

4. Competent Persons
An adequate number of 'competent' persons have to be appointed, with sufficient time and resources at their disposal, to assist the employer to comply with his legal duties and to implement emergency arrangements (see below). Competent health and safety advisers can be either employees with appropriate qualifications and experience or professionally qualified consultants. [MHSW]

5. Risk Assessment
'Suitable and sufficient' risk assessments must be carried out by the employer. The purpose is to identify hazards, assess the probability that harm may arise from them and evaluate the effectiveness of control measures. [MHSW] (This duty is elaborated in regulations dealing with specific hazards and issues eg. substances hazardous to health, hereafter COSHH 3, and Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations, hereafter DSE 4).

6. Tackling Risks at Source
The workplace must be made safe without risks to health. So far as is reasonably practicable, accidents and work related health damage should be prevented by tackling risks at source, using engineering means in preference to systems of work, personal protective equipment only being an acceptable alternative where risks cannot be controlled by such other means. [MHSW, ACoP].

7. Information, Instruction, Training and Supervision
Employees must be given comprehensible information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure their health and safety and that of others. [HSWA, MHSW and other regulations eg. COSHH].

If you employ anyone, you must display the health and safety law poster, or provide each worker with a copy of the equivalent pocket card. You must display the poster where your workers can easily read it. Available from the HSE: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/lawposter.htm

8. Cooperation and Co-ordination
Employers sharing workplaces must co-operate and co-ordinate their activities to ensure that they can meet their health and safety responsibilities. [MHSW]

9. Hazardous Agents
Exposure to hazardous agents such as dust, fumes, noise, vibration, radiation or harmful micro-organisms must be eliminated or adequately controlled. [HSWA, COSHH, Noise at Work Regulations (NAWR) 5, Ionising Radiations Regulations (IR) 6, Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations (CAW) 7, Control of Lead at Work Regulations (CLAW) 8]. Sites with more than 25 tonnes of hazardous substances must be notified to HSE. [The Dangerous Substances (Notification and Marking of Sites) Regulations 9]

10. Health Surveillance
Arrangements should be made for any necessary health surveillance of employees and appropriate records should be kept. [MHSW, COSHH, CAW, CLAW and IR]

11. Work Equipment
All work equipment must meet essential safety requirements and safe systems of work must be established. Risks from work with Display Screen Equipment must be assessed and controlled. [Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 10, DSE]. There are still residual requirements in specific machinery type regulations eg. woodworking machinery regulations, power press regulations etc.

12. Personal Protective Equipment
Where risks cannot be controlled at source (see point 6 above), appropriate personal protective clothing and/or equipment should be provided free of charge. [HSWA and Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 11]

13. Articles and Substances
Articles and substances should be safe and without risks to health when properly used. They must be: properly designed; tested; packaged; labelled; accompanied by adequate information; and moved, stored and used safely. [HSWA, Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging) Regulations 12]

14. Special Precautions
Special precautions should be taken against entry into confined spaces and working at height. Harmful manual handling should be eliminated. Lifting plant and pressure systems should be regularly eliminated. Safe use of electricity and site transport should be ensured. [HSWA, Manual Handling Operations Regulations 13, PUWER, Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 14, Electricity at Work Regulations 15]

15. Emergency Arrangements
Adequate emergency arrangements must be in place under the control of 'competent persons'. There must also be suitable procedures for employees to report serious and imminent danger as well as shortcomings in health and safety arrangements. [MHSW]

16. Fire
Adequate precautions should be taken against fires and explosions and adequate means of escape and fire fighting equipment should be provided. [Fire Precautions Act 16]

17. Workplace Requirements
Essential workplace requirements should be ensured, including those concerning temperature, cleanliness, working space, ventilation, lighting, safe access and egress (including traffic routes). Adequate welfare and first aid facilities should be provided. [Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 17 and Workplace Health Safety and Welfare (WHSW) Regulations 18]. Existence of commercial or industrial premises must be notified to the appropriate enforcing authority.

18. Reporting and Recording
Accidental injuries, dangerous occurrences and notifiable occupational diseases should be reported to the appropriate enforcing authority and records kept. Records also have to be kept of the results of workplace environmental monitoring, health surveillance and maintenance etc. [Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, (RIDDOR) 19, COSHH]

From 6 April 2012, Parliamentary approval, RIDDOR's reporting requirement changed. The trigger point increased from over three days' to over seven days' incapacitation (not counting the day on which the accident happened).

19. Safety Representatives, Safety Committees and Consultation
Employers must consult their workforce on health and safety matters. When the employer recognises a trade union, that union has the right to appoint safety representatives who must be consulted on all matters affecting the health and safety of employees they represent and be permitted to carry out their functions. If requested to do so, the employer must establish a joint safety committee. Safety representatives are entitled to paid time off to attend TUC or union approved training courses. {Health and Safety: Consultation with Employees Regulations 20] [Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 21]

20. Insurance
All employers must have specific insurance to provide compensation to employees following successful civil law claims for damages in the event of work related injury or damage to health.

B - Self Employed

Self employed persons have broadly similar duties to those of employers. They must co-operate effectively with employers and other self employed persons to meet the objectives of health and safety law. [MHSW]

C - Employees

Employees must take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by what they do or do not do; co-operate with their employer and others (eg. contractors on site) in meeting health and safety requirements; report any shortcomings in health and safety arrangements (consistent with their knowledge and training); and not interfere with or misuse anything provided to assure health, safety or welfare at work. [HSWA and MHSW]

D - Manufacturers and Suppliers

Manufacturers, designers, importers, suppliers, erectors or installers of any plant, machinery, equipment or appliances for use at work and manufacturers, importers and suppliers of substances for use in work activities have extensive duties: to ensure safety and absence of risks to health; to carry out research and testing; and to provide adequate information. [HSW]. Manufacturers of machinery have to ensure that it meets EC 'essential safety requirements' and bears the CE mark. [Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 22]

[Note: In addition to the above statutory duties, all the above parties have significant common law duties, meaning that injury as a result of a failure to meet an expected standard could result in a successful action for damages in a civil court].

E - Enforcement

Health and Safety Executive inspectors and Local Authority enforcement officers have wide-ranging powers to: enter premises; take samples and measurements; inspect documents; require persons to answer questions; and issue notices (prohibition notices, deferred prohibition notices and improvement notices). They also have powers to prosecute. Those found guilty in a magistrate's court of health and safety offences can face fines of up to £20,000 and/or up to 12 months' imprisonment. Conviction in a Crown Court can result in an unlimited fine and/or a period of imprisonment of up to two years. [HSWA]

HSE Enforcement Policy Statement www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/hse41.pdf

Legislation:

  1. Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA)
  2. Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSW)
  3. Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH)
  4. The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations
  5. Noise at Work Regulations (NAWR)
  6. Ionising Radiations Regulations
  7. The Control of Asbestos Regulations
  8. Control of Lead at Work Regulations
  9. The Dangerous Substances (Notification and Marking of Sites) Regulations 1990
  10. Provision and Use of Work Equipment
  11. Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations
  12. Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging) Regulations
  13. Manual Handling Operations Regulations
  14. Pressure Systems Safety Regulations
  15. Electricity at Work Regulations
  16. Fire Precautions Act
  17. The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations
  18. Workplace Health Safety and Welfare (WHSW) Regulations
  19. Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations
  20. Health and Safety: Consultation with Employees Regulations
  21. Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations
  22. Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations

Page Ref. No.: OS00017 / Date Created: 2002 / Date Updated: 20/07/2012 / Author: RB/CH

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