Health and Safety legislation is in place to minimise the risk of harm to employees and non-employees from work activity.
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 is the primary piece of legislation concerning health and safety within the UK and there are multiple regulations which support that Act.
There are also many more specific Regulations, guidance documents and approved codes of practice (ACOPS – documents which identify legal minimum standards to be achieved) available online and upon www.hse.gov.uk.
You have a duty to ensure that you reduce the risk of harm to your employees and members of the public. This can be achieved by assessing the hazards (things that may harm people – electricity, slips, vehicles etc.) in the workplace and identifying the risk (likelihood - of an injury happening or ill health and the severity – how badly they could be injured).
It is a good idea to begin this process by walking around the workplace, thinking carefully about what you do, or in the case of new businesses what you would like to do and how you will achieve it. Use the HSE’s risk assessment process and risk assessment templates available at www.hse.gov.uk to assist you.
As well as using technical guidance, regulations, ACOP’s and your own knowledge, you may need to employ the services of experienced consultants.
If you have 5 or more employees in total the significant findings (those that pose risk) must be recorded, however, even if you have less than 5 employees it is recommended that you record it for ease of review and to demonstrate your commitment to an inspector.
Once you have completed your risk assessment you will have a good understanding of the hazards, their associated risk and who might be harmed. Next you must determine what measures you will use to eliminate, reduce, isolate or control that risk.
You must ensure that you reduce the level of risk ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’ (SFAIRP), this is achieved by weighing the quantum of risk against the cost, time and effort of implementing control measures. Guidance documents may assist you to identify the level of risk and suitable control measures.
Some measures are absolute and not SFAIRP e.g. Noise at work requirements which prescribe levels that must be achieved.
Risk assessments must be reviewed periodically and revised where necessary e.g. as a result of a change in the work, the workplace or following an accident.
Accidents must be recorded by a company as required by social security legislation and some injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences may need to be reported to the HSE under the Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 – www.hse.gov.uk
You have a duty to take reasonable care for the health and safety of yourself and of other people who may be affected by the things that you do, or fail to do.
You must also co-operate with your employer in the interests of health and safety e.g. complete the work task in a way specified (unless there is a risk to your health and/ or safety), or by wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) that has been provided to you and which you have been instructed to wear.
Your employer should have informed you of any risks associated with particular work activities that you are expected to undertake. For any work involving significant risk, the preventive and protective measures which have been put in place to safeguard you from harm should be detailed to you.
Further to this, you should have been provided with specific instructions and/ or training for tasks where you might be injured or made ill at work (e.g. working at height, manual handling, asbestos, violence etc.). You should bring to the attention of your manager, any tasks which might harm you for which you have not been trained, or provided with specific instruction upon how to complete safely. If you are made to complete the task regardless you may report this to the Environmental Health Service using the details below.
For general workplace health and safety, the responsibility is split between two agencies – the health and safety executive (HSE) and the local authority (LA) or ‘Council’. The two agencies are responsible for regulating separate sectors and these are listed in The Health and Safety (Enforcing Authority) Regulations 1998 .
Generally, under health and safety the LA, via the Environmental Health Service are responsible for regulating non-domestic premises where the main activities are retail (the sale of goods), the storage of goods for retail, office activities, catering services, therapies and treatments, skin piercing (incl. tattooing), practice or presentations of the arts, sports, games, entertainment or other cultural or recreational activities and the provision of child care, or playgroup nurseries. The full list is identified in schedule 1 of the Regulations.
In practice this is achieved by:
Under the provisions of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, Environmental Health Officers (EHO’s) are authorised to enter any place of work at any reasonable time, or at any time should the Officer believe, or have reason to believe that there is serious danger.
The Officer may conduct inspections of the workplace and take with them police constables or any other person they so wish. Examinations and tests may be made and measurements can be taken. Evidence can be documented by photographs or recorded by other means and copies of documents taken or requested. Articles and substances may be sampled or seized and information requested, witness statements may be taken and requested to be signed. Upon request, facilities in place must be made available to the Officer (telephones, computers, workspaces).
EHO’s have the authority to serve legal enforcement Improvement and Prohibition notices upon those that are in contravention of the legislation (Act and Regulations).
Proportionate and risk based action is used by Officers to achieve compliance. The enforcement management model (EMM – a co-ordinated enforcement scoring system for all local authorities set by the HSE) is used to assist the Officer to select the right legal intervention, and the local authority will consult its own health and safety enforcement policy.