Home » Law »

Health and Safety Policies - Health and Safety Law                                 printable version of this document

We have broken this article into the following sections:

What are the Basic Health and Safety Obligations?

Who is Responsible for Health and Safety in my Business?

Are Managers Responsible for Health and Safety?

What is the Minimum an Employer Must Do?

Tell Me About the Package

What are the Basic Health and Safety Obligations?

Health and safety in the working environment is governed by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (the Act) and statutory instruments emanating from it such as the Health and Safety at Work Regulations, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) and the Display Screen Equipment Regulations (DSE).

The legislation is designed to protect employees. What makes it even more important is that failure to comply with the law is a criminal offence in many instances.

This is not, except in rare instances, an absolute obligation.  Instead, you are normally required to do all that is reasonably practicable to keep your employees safe and that means weighing up the likelihood and severity of the risk on the one hand and the time, money and trouble of averting it on the other hand. 

In many cases, the Health and Safety Executive will have issued Codes of Practise to provide guidance.

What does "Competent Person" mean?

Your obligations must be discharged with the aid of a competent person. This can be you or one of your partners or an outside advisor. A competent person is someone whose experience, training and level of experience gives them the knowledge required to provide the advice and guidance you need.

You have an absolute obligation to engage a competent person to assist you, which means you must be adequately skilled or you must hire someone who is.

What does the word "employee" cover?

The word “employee” has a broad meaning in health and safety legislation than it does in many other areas of the law.  Anyone employed on a contract of employment, whether written down or not, students, voluntary unpaid workers and those on work experience are also included.

Am I responsible for the health and safety of visitors and contractors?

Yes. You have obligations that extent to visitors, clients, guests, neighbours, members of the public and anyone else who might be affected by what you do, including contractors and subcontractors, and it is possible that if you fail to comply with your health and safety obligations, you may invalidate your liability insurance or increase your premiums.

Does Health and Safety Law Apply to me?

The Act applies to all employers and all those who carry on a business, no matter what kind of business. Health and safety obligations apply to all work activities and all premises, including outdoor activities.

Did you know:

A good health and safety policy need not stop you doing what you need to do or make it any more expensive

A failure to carry out risk assessments could result in an unlimited fine and 2 years imprisonment

If you have five employees
or more you must have a
written health and safety policy.

You must do risk assessments
and write down your
significant findings
even if you only have one employee.

If what you do could injure someone who is not
an employee you must do risk assessments
even if you have
no employees.

You must do an assessment
of your first aid needs
even if you only
have one employee