Health and Safety Legal

Employers have legal and ethical responsibilities to their employees, customers and visitors to their site to ensure that they provide a safe environment for everybody. This article explains the duties an employer or business faces, and explains how they can fulfil their responsibilities, and why this is important.

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The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is the legislation which makes sure that workers are not put into any unnecessary danger when they are at work. Enforced by the Health and Safety Executive, it places duties on employers to meet certain conditions and outlines their duty of care.

This duty of care does not just relate to the employees and staff of an organisation, but also any visitors, guests, clients or contractors who are visiting the premises.

 Create a Safe Environment

As part of their responsibilities to create a safe environment for their staff and visitors, employers must, in the first instance, carry out a thorough risk assessment of their property and of any work which needs to be carried out. A particular member of staff should be appointed to be the Health and Safety Representative: their role is to liaise between the management, the staff and unions; represent workers; carry out assessments; and investigate potential hazards and unsafe practices.

The company has a legal responsibility to create a safe workplace with no unnecessary risks to health. Any machinery must be not only safe to use, but there must also be policies and procedures in place to prevent injury and danger. First aid kits must be available, and safety features like ventilation and adequate lighting must be provided. All necessary equipment must be readily available to help to maintain a safe environment, and this might include protective or high visibility clothing.

 Policies and Procedures 

In addition to these aspects of the working environment which the employer has to take care of, there are also policies and procedures which must be created for the workplace. Training and supervision must always be provided when there are any potential hazards, and safe working practices should be established. Procedures must be in place to report accidents, injuries, and dangerous situations to the local authority or the Health and Safety Executive themselves.

Proper maintenance of equipment is essential to assure the safest working practices, yet keeping track of maintenance and repair schedules can be confusing or even overlooked. Making use of a clear documentation system, designed for the purpose, is a very effective way of being assured that all of the machinery and equipment within a site is up-to-date with safety checks. Safe-INSPECT is one such system, which can cover diverse areas of business such as ladder inspections

While it is impossible to ever ensure complete safety, the responsibility of a business-owner to provide a hazard-free environment for their staff to work in is not in doubt. Obviously the risks inherent in different jobs mean that a firefighter, for instance, can not necessarily be guaranteed the same level of safety as an office worker. However, when dangers are avoidable the legal duty is clear, and there really is no excuse for not eliminating them entirely from any business premises.

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