Health and safety at work is an area of law that has attracted much litigation, and employers must be aware of what their responsibilities are in terms of the health and safety of their employees.
Health and safety at work is governed by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The Health and Safety Executive is responsible for the enforcement of health and safety regulations.
Employers have a duty of care to ensure not only the health and safety of their employees, but also their welfare whilst at work. This should start with a risk assessment to identify any potential health and safety hazards or risks. A competent person should be appointed to act as a health and safety officer, and should be appropriately trained in this role.
Any businesses that have five or more people must keep a record of health and safety assessments, and what systems employers have put in place to deal with any identified risks. There should also be in place a formal health and safety policy, which should be accessible to all employees.
Employers have a duty to
- Make the workplace safe;
- Prevent risks to health;
- Ensure plant and machines are safe to use;
- Provide first aid equipment;
- Provide suitable work equipment, and keep it well maintained;
- Provide protective clothing;
- Tell employees about potential hazards, as well as provide training and supervision.
Employers should also review their health and safety policies and risk assessments, and ensure that all employees understand their roles and responsibilities. A health and safety policy should be put in place that informs employees about the commitment to health and safety, as well as describing how the policy will be implemented, what the employer intends to do to implement it, who will be involved in implementation, and who will be responsible for health and safety at the workplace.
- Obtain employers liability insurance;
- Appoint a competent person;
- Write a health and safety policy;
- Assess any risks;
- Provide adequate facilities for welfare of employees;
- Provide appropriate health and safety training.
For more information on health and safety at work, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau, or the Health and safety Executive at HSENI.gov.uk. Further guidance can be found on www.nidirect.gov.uk.
Sian Fisher is an Information Officer with Citizens Advice.