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Training matters

This short guide explains why it is important for businesses to invest in health and safety training. It gives summary advice on areas of likely training need, how to get started and where to go for further information and advice.

Why safety training matters

A picture of a RoSPA training session.

Accidents and ill health associated with work lead not just to needless pain and suffering but to huge costs and loss of business continuity. 148 people were fatally injured in work-related accidents the UK in 2012/13 1, over 640,000 2 work place injuries were reported and 1.1 million people suffered from a work-related illness leading to 27 million working days lost. 2

Ensuring safe and healthy working has to be a key priority for everyone at work and this requires real competence, not just commitment and good intentions.

If you are a director, owner or manager of a business, you will appreciate that you personally need to be competent to lead the management of the business safely. And you will also understand the importance of being systematic in ensuring that your employees and your contractors' staff are competent when it comes to health and safety.

The way you approach health and safety training speaks volumes about your business, your values and your professionalism.

Investing in safety training:

  • Helps your employees to identify hazards and adopt safe and healthy working practices
  • Helps to avoid the pain, anguish and financial costs that accidents and ill health cause
  • Fosters a positive culture of health and safety, in which unsafe and unhealthy working are not tolerated
  • Enables your employees to spot ways to improve health and safety management
  • Enables you to meet your legal duty to protect the health and safety of your employees and others.

Competence is more than having attended a safety training course. Experience is key too. You need to establish procedures to ensure that your organisation has the right people with the right knowledge and skills to manage occupational risks. Trusting to luck is just too risky.

All businesses have a legal duty to provide information, training and supervision to employees to enable them to carry out their work safely, not just to front-line staff but also to directors, managers and those in other key roles (see section below). Of course, this costs money and time (both of which are likely to be in short supply). But remember, there are major business benefits to be gained from safety training. By cutting accidents and ill health and by helping to ensure faultless operations, safety training can make a major contribution to the success of your business.

Training needs analysis

To ensure that you invest your limited resources appropriately you will need to analyse your requirement for health and safety training. Consider the roles listed below. Are you sure you are equipping key staff with the necessary skills and knowledge to play their role in preventing accidents and ill health?

  • Board directors (executive and non-executive)
  • Senior managers (and not just operations managers)
  • Middle managers
  • Team leaders
  • Key functional roles (not just health and safety staff but fleet, HR, facilities, IT, procurement and finance staff)
  • Supervisors (especially of young workers)
  • Key skill groups (designers, craftsmen, maintenance staff, drivers, admin staff etc.)
  • Trainees
  • Safety representatives
  • All new starters.

Here you can find out more about the RoSPA training needs analysis review service which is designed to help ensure you get the most from your training budget.

What the law says

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (HSWA) 1974 (Section 2) 3 requires every employer to provide whatever information, instruction, training and supervision is necessary to ensure, "so far as is reasonably practicable", the health and safety at work of their employees and others affected by their activities. This is amplified by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) 1999 4, which also identifies situations where health and safety training is particularly important, e.g. when people start work, on exposure to new or increased risks and where existing skills may have become rusty or need updating.

The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 5 and the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 6 require you to consult your employees, or their representatives, on health and safety issues and this includes matters such as health and safety training. And representatives appointed under either of these sets of regulations are entitled to time off with pay for training in their duties. The Health and Safety (Training for Employment) Regulations 1990 7 ensure that learners doing work experience are covered by health and safety law.

Training has to be paid for by the employer and organised in working time.

The starting point is risk assessment to identify hazards and the measures needed to control risks to health and safety. While suitable physical safeguards and procedures will usually be necessary, training and the provision of information are also part of the mix so that people understand dangers and know their part in tackling them.

You may want to provide some health and safety training, including induction training, periodic tool-box talks and briefings, yourself, but unless you are competent to deliver it in-house, you will need outside help. The law requires you to have access to a suitable source of competent advice to help you manage health and safety and this includes providing you with advice on your health and safety training requirements and options for meeting them.

The MHSWR require you to take into account the capabilities, training, knowledge and experience of workers and ensure that the demands of their work do not exceed their ability to carry out their role without risk to themselves and others. Some employees may have particular training needs, for example: new recruits need basic induction training into how to work safely, including arrangements for first aid, fire and evacuation. People changing jobs or taking on extra responsibilities need to know about any new health and safety implications. Young employees are particularly vulnerable to accidents and you need to pay particular attention to their needs, so their training should be a priority. It is also important that new, inexperienced or young employees are adequately supervised. Skills need updating periodically by refresher training. Findings from reviews of risk assessments should be used to identify and record any further specific training needs.

There are a number of sets of regulations under the HSWA which include general or specific health and safety training requirements. Examples include regulations covering*:

*All external links.

Even if there not specific regulations, there are many other topics where the HSE has issued key pieces of guidance and on which training should be provided. Some examples include:

HSE Guidance

  • Accident investigation
    Investigating accidents and incidents - A workbook for employers, unions, safety representatives and safety professionals, Published by the Health and Safety Executive 10/11 -
  • Driving at work
    Driving at work- Managing work-related road safety, Published by the Health and Safety Executive - HSE Driving and Riding for Work
  • Lone working
    Working alone - Health and safety guidance on the risks of lone working, Published by the Health and Safety Executive -
  • Risk assessment
    Five steps to risk assessment, Published by the Health and Safety Executive -
  • Workplace transport
    Workplace transport safety – an overview, Published by the Health and Safety Executive -
  • Stress
    How to tackle work-related stress - A guide for employers on making the Management Standards work, Published by the Health and Safety Executive -


If an inspector calls, or if they are investigating following an accident, they will want to know that directors and senior managers are up to date with the law and if and how employees or their representatives are being consulted on health and safety issues.

They will want evidence that the key hazards in the business have been identified, that risks have been properly assessed and necessary measures to ensure safe and healthy working are in place.

They will want to know what training managers and supervisors have had and if all employees understand the organisation's health and safety policy, their roles and responsibilities and what to do in an emergency.

They will also be looking at records to check that induction training and any health and safety skills training needed to deal with specific hazards has been provided and that this has been kept up to date.

Failure to invest in training can lead to enforcement notices and can be a key factor in any prosecution under health and safety law.

Should an employee seek damages for an injury sustained at work, alleging that it was due to your negligence, you will need to be able to produce training records as part of your audit trail showing that you were taking reasonably practicable measures to protect them.

Self-employed and contractors' staff

If you have people working in your business who are not your direct employees but in practice are working under your control, from a legal perspective they may nevertheless need to be treated as if they were employed by you. In other words, for health and safety purposes, you will need to take appropriate action to protect them, and this can include the provision of information, training and supervision.

You have a legal duty under MHSWR to co-operate with other employers to ensure compliance with health and safety law. Competence of contractors and of their staff to work safely should always be assessed at the tender stage. If you wish to avoid having to provide repeat training to contractors' staff who are already competent, you may want to think about setting up or joining a health and safety passport training scheme.

RoSPA Training : Contractors' Safety Management

Developing a planned approach

Health and safety training is not a one-off exercise. It has to be built into ongoing business management.

  • Establish your commitment to ensure health and safety competence
  • Consult staff and their representatives
  • Seek professional advice
  • Have a clear policy on training in your health and safety policy statement
  • Establish health and safety competence (including training) requirements for key roles and responsibilities
  • Ensure health and safety requirements are built into job descriptions and into recruitment and selection
  • Develop a training programme and plan, informed by the results of risk assessments and job safety analysis and establish a matrix of employee training needs
  • Seek outside help, including appropriate training providers
  • Consider options for delivery (in-house sessions, one-to-one instruction, classroom training, open or distance learning, computer based or interactive learning, external courses)
  • Implement and deliver the programme, tracking progress against targets
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of training through active and reactive monitoring, considering, for example, additional training needs identified by the investigation of accidents and incidents or the revision of risk assessments
  • Review the programme periodically to assess its effectiveness (is training working?) and to identify areas for improvement.

Providing safety training need not be a great burden, but you do need to think ahead and prioritise, tackling your most significant gaps first of all and building training into your business plans well in advance.

Getting further information and help

There are several good sources of information and advice:

HSE Guidance on Training

Useful websites

Health and Safety Executive:

Safety Groups UK: visit to find your local, health and safety group.)

National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH): Qualifications

Investors in People:

Some useful telephone numbers

  • RoSPA Training Tel: +44 (0)121 248 2233
  • RoSPA HQ Tel: +44 (0)121 248 2000
  • RoSPA Scotland training & consultancy enquiries Tel: +44 (0)121 248 2000
  • RoSPA Scotland Tel: +44 (0)121 248 2000
  • Skills Funding Agency Tel: 0845 377 5000
  • National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health Tel: +44 (0)116 263 4700
  • Investors in People Scotland Tel: +44 (0)131 625 0155
  • Department of Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland Tel: +44 (0)28 9025 7777


  1. Health and Safety Executive Annual Statistics Report 2012/13
  2. At a glance guide to Health and Safety Statistics 2012/13, HSE
  3. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (HSWA) 1974
  4. Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSW)
  5. Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations
  6. Health and Safety: Consultation with Employees Regulations
  7. The Health and Safety (Training for Employment) Regulations

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