Health and Safety Legislation– What Businesses Need to Know

28th April 2016 9:00 am Leave your thoughts

At the beginning of February this year, the Sentencing Council’s guidelines for health and safety offences came into effect. The message they sent was clear; the regulatory authorities expect health and safety to remain a key priority for all businesses. The guidelines make it clear that persistent offenders or those who adopt a cavalier approach to health and safety will face harsher fines.

In general, the law imposes a range of duties on employers, the self-employed and employees. These are expressed as broad general duties in the Health and Safety at Work Act and subsidiary regulations.

Failing to manage health and safety appropriately can be far more costly than getting it right in the first place. Looking after health, safety and welfare isn’t just a legal requirement; it makes good commercial sense too.

All businesses are responsible for the health and safety of everyone affected by their business, and that includes anyone working in or around or visiting the premises, and anyone affected by the products and services the business produces and supplies.

A written policy

Businesses must have a health and safety policy, and where there are more than five employees this policy must be in writing. In addition, a risk assessment needs to be carried out. Company directors are ultimately responsible, and can face civil or legal proceedings if failures in health and safety measures lead to an accident.

Unless all your employees are your close relatives, you will need to have an employer’s liability insurance policy in place.

Training for employees

All staff should be made aware of the health and safety policies applying to their workplace. This should include practical matters such as evacuation procedures, escape routes and the location of fire-fighting equipment.

Businesses with specialised equipment must be able to minimise the risks involved in its operation, ensuring that proper training is given to users. Electrical equipment must be properly maintained and regularly inspected.

Welfare issues

Employers are responsible for the safety and suitability of the working environment and that includes workstations, seating, and the layout of the workplace. Hot and cold water, soap and towels and sufficient clean working toilets must also be available for workers, as must drinking water. Employees have a right to expect the workplace to be cleaned regularly, maintained at a comfortable temperature, and to be adequately lit.

If your workforce includes people with disabilities, pregnant women or young people under 18, then additional regulations apply.

Accidents and emergencies

First aid kits must be provided and there needs to be a designated first aider. Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, work-related injuries, illnesses, deaths and dangerous occurrences must by law be reported. There needs to be an accident book where incidents are recorded, and all injuries that require someone to be off work for more than three days must be reported.

Enforcement

Health and Safety Executive inspectors and Local Authority enforcement officers have wide-ranging powers to enter premises, issue prohibition and improvement notices, and have the power to prosecute. Those found guilty can now expect to face stiffer fines and imprisonment.

Directors and managers are faced with an ever-increasing burden of legislation, so it makes sense to get in-depth legal advice on developing good health and safety policies that fully meet the needs of their businesses.

Our company and commercial solicitor, Mary Kilner, has a wealth of experience advising a range of companies on their obligations and duties to their employees or workers. Make sure you don’t get caught out by getting advice on what you can do to minimise the risks of a claim being brought against your company under health and safety legislation. A safe work place is a happy one!

For further guidance or help please contact Mary Kilner on 01628 631051 or by email to mary.kilner@colemans.co.uk


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This post was written by Colemans Solicitors LLP

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