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Who Is Responsible For Health and Safety in the Workplace? 10 Essentials To Get It Right Today

Who Is Responsible For Health and Safety in the Workplace? 10 Essentials To Get It Right Today

Date: 5th January 2020 | By: Claire Malley | Categories: Fire Safety, Health and Safety, Health and Safety Legislation

614,000 workers are injured at work every year. And 521,000 are suffering ill health, which they believed is caused or made worse by work. In financial terms, that stacks up to an annual cost of nearly £15billion according to the Health and Safety Executive. Read our Employers’ guide on exactly who is responsible for health and safety in the workplace covering everything you need to know.

1. Reduce accidents, improve goodwill and save money by taking Health and Safety seriously

Health and Safety regulations are intended to prevent accidents in the workplace or in public areas. It’s overseen by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and is very important for employers as it looks after the wellbeing of your staff, your customers and any visitors to your premises.

As an employer, you are responsible for meeting Health and Safety criteria. It makes good business sense as it keeps your staff happy and healthy. And it makes financial sense too. According to HSE, injury and illness costs British employers £2.9 billion every year.

Addressing Health and Safety brings many benefits to your business, including:

  • Reduced risks
  • Fewer accidents
  • Lower absence and turnover rates of employees
  • Reduced threat of legal action against your business

It can also:

  • Improve your reputation amongst partners, investors and customers amongst partners, investors and customers
  • Increase productivity, because employees are healthier, happier and better motivated
  • fire exit sign

    2. Understanding who is responsible for Health and Safety in the workplace is key to keep you and your employees protected

    As an employer you…

    • Have a duty to protect staff, customers and visitors so far as is reasonably practicable from your work activities
    • Are legally required to assess all foreseeable hazards that could cause harm from your work activities
    • Should have a written Health and Safety policy (if you have more than five employees)
    • Must give employees information about the risks in the workplace and how they are protected. You also must instruct and train staff on how to deal with the risks
    • Must consult your employees on Health and Safety issues. This should direct or through a safety representative that is either elected by your staff or appointed by a trade union

    3. Stay on the right side of the law by understanding Health and Safety definitions

    “Hazard”
    A hazard is something that could cause someone harm, for example spilt oil on the floor that could result in someone slipping up.

    “Risk”
    A risk is the chance that the hazard could actually cause harm. Depending on the hazard and situation, the risk could be high, low or somewhere in between.

    “Injury”
    An injury is physical harm or damage caused to the body in an accident or attack.

    “Accident”
    The Health and Safety definition of accident is any unplanned event that actually causes injury or illness to someone. It can also be used to describe an unplanned event that causes damage or loss to property, plant, materials or the environment or a loss of business opportunity.

    “Incident”
    According to the HSE an incident is a work-related event in which an injury or ill health of any severity occurred or could have occurred.

    “Work-related”
    The HSE states ‘work-related’ means anything caused by your job and/or place of work.

    For a complete list of definitions, search our Health and Safety Glossary

    who is responsible for health and safety in the workplace

    4. Know your way around the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

    The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is the main piece of legislation covering occupational Health and Safety in the UK that you need to know and understand. It’s also sometimes referred to as HSWA, the HSW Act, the 1974 Act or HASAWA.

    In summary, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places a duty on employers “to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work” of all employees.

    Health and Safety at Work Act – employer responsibilities:

    Employers must ensure

    • Safe operation and maintenance of the working environment, plant and systems
    • Maintenance of safe access and exit of the workplace
    • Safe use, handling and storage of dangerous substances
    • All staff receive adequate training on Health and Safety
    • Welfare provisions for staff at work are adequate
    • There is a written policy on Health and Safety if there are more than five employees. This policy must be revised as needed
    • That if a written Health and Safety policy is required, employees or their representatives are consulted on it

    Read the full Health and Safety At Work Act 1974

    Read the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, which were introduced to reinforce and clarify the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Also known as the Management Regs, they outline in more specific detail what employers are required to do to manage health and safety under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

    5. Spread the responsibility by understanding employee obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act

    Whilst complying with Health and Safety regulations is primarily down to employers, employees also have certain responsibilities.

    The HSE states:

    “Workers have a duty to take care of their own Health and Safety and that of others who may be affected by your actions at work. Workers must co-operate with employers and co-workers to help everyone meet their legal requirements.”

    6. Make sure everyone understands their responsibilities with a clear, comprehensive Health and Safety Policy

    What is a Health and Safety Policy?

    A Health and Safety policy describes how your business manages health and safety.

    I have a small business: do I need a Health and Safety policy?

    If you have fewer than five employees, you won’t need to write out a Health and Safety policy. But, if you have more than five, you will need to have something in writing that you can show your employees and anyone who asks to see it.

    Regardless of the size of your business, your Health and Safety policy needs to be robust and appropriate for the risks your staff, customers and visitors face. Smaller businesses with more than five employees may not have the time or expertise available to draft a Health and Safety policy. If that’s you, look for specialist help by training a member of your team to take on this role or partner with an external expert like Wirehouse.

    What should my policy include?

    Your Health and Safety policy should outline clearly who does what and when to protect staff and visitors to your business from harm.

    Most businesses set out their policy in three sections:

    • The statement of general policy on Health and Safety at work sets out your commitment to managing health and safety effectively, and what you want to achieve
    • The responsibility section sets out who is responsible for specific actions
    • The arrangements section contains the detail of what you are going to do in practice to achieve the aims set out in your statement of Health and Safety policy

    Health and Safety policy template

    Don’t feel overwhelmed by the prospect of writing a Health and Safety policy. If you have a low risk business, it is normally relatively straightforward. And, however complicated your policy might be, a standard Health and Safety template will help you to get started.

    7. Engage a Health and Safety Officer in the workplace

    As an employer, you must appoint someone with the necessary skills and knowledge to help you meet your Health and Safety duties. If you have a low risk business this could be you or one or more of your employees. If your business has higher risk, or you do not have the time or an appropriate staff member available to take on this role, you may decide to outsource this role to a specialist.


    Health and Safety representative responsibilities

    Employers must consult employees on Health and Safety issues so that they understand who is responsible for health and safety in the workplace. Consultation must be either direct or through a safety representative that is either elected by the workforce or appointed by a trade union. They are independent of management and represent their co-workers’ best interests. Health and Safety representatives have functions given by law.

    8. Get specialist help with Health and Safety to get it right 100% of the time

    If you run a low-risk business, Health and Safety is normally something you can manage yourself. Its not always easy to be clear on who is responsible for health and safety in the workplace. If your business is more complicated, or you don’t feel confident handling it yourself, it can be wise to look for specialist help.

    9. Stay in the know with Health and Safety updates

    It’s important your business stays up to date with any changes to Health and Safety regulations. You can do this by:

    10. Displaying Health and Safety posters correctly

    If you have one or more employee, you must display the Health and Safety at Work poster where your worker/s can easily read it.

    A revised version of the Health and Safety Law poster was published in 2009. Since 5 April 2014, you are obliged to either display it or give your staff the equivalent leaflet.

    Getting to grips with Health and Safety at work

    It’s essential that all employers get to grips with the appropriate Health and Safety regulations to understand who is responsible for health and safety in the workplace. With reduced accidents and illness, and less claims for compensation, it’s also financially prudent to invest time or money in Health and Safety. Don’t be put off by the legal jargon and extent of information that’s out there. For most businesses, it’s actually fairly straightforward and it shouldn’t be too time consuming. If in doubt, call in specialist help, but always make sure that Health and Safety is central to your business.

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