Frequently Asked Health & Safety Questions

Frequently Asked Health & Safety Questions

Ellis Whittam is often asked about Health & Safety in the workplace.

So we’ve put together some of the more commonly asked questions:

Do Health & Safety laws apply to my small business?

They apply to all businesses no matter how small, to the self-employed and also employees.

They apply to all businesses no matter how small, to the self-employed and also employees.

Who’s responsible for Health & Safety in the workplace?

The primary responsibility for Health & Safety rests with the employer.

But employees also have a duty for their own as well as the Health & Safety of others.

What are the main Health & Safety responsibilities of employers?

As an employer, you have a general duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of your employees. Anyone else who might be affected by your work must also be protected.

Under the Health & Safety at Work etc Act (HSWA) 1974 and Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) 1999 you must:

  • so far as reasonably practicable ensure the health, safety and welfare of your employees as well as anyone else affected by your work
  • carry out a risk assessment of the Health & Safety risks to employees and others
  • effectively plan, organise, control, monitor and review your Health & Safety measures
  • appoint someone ‘competent’ to make sure you comply with Health & Safety law. They must have ‘sufficient training and experience or knowledge or other qualities’
  • provide employees with clear Health & Safety information and training including the risks and steps you’ve taken to control them
  • prepare (if five or more employees) a written Health & Safety policy. It must describe your arrangements and be regularly reviewed. You must bring it to the attention of employees

What key Health & Safety responsibilities do employees have?

The HSWA says employees must take reasonable care:

  • for their own Health & Safety
  • not to put others at risk by what they do or don’t do at work. This covers the same wide public group employers must protect

Workers must also:

  • not deliberately interfere with or misuse safety provisions
  • co-operate to help meet Health & Safety obligations

Employees have further duties notably under the MHSWR including:

  • using equipment or substances in line with the training or instruction given
  • alerting employers of serious or imminent danger
  • reporting shortcomings in their employer’s Health & Safety arrangements

Who enforces Health & Safety law?

It is enforced by inspectors from local authorities or the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) depending on the type of business operated:

  • environmental health officers generally deal with offices, shops, hotels, catering, and leisure activities
  • HSE inspectors cover activities such as factories, farms and building sites

Employees must be given the name and address of the enforcing authority for their workplace.

Under the Health & Safety Information for Employees Regulations 1989, every employer must also display a poster or distribute a leaflet setting out basic Health & Safety information.

What are the consequences of not complying with Health & Safety law?

This depends on the seriousness of the offence and whether you’ve previously been told about matters.

You may be served with an improvement notice requiring the Health & Safety failing to be sorted out or you can be taken to court.

The 2016 sentencing guidelines increased the levels of fines for all businesses and are based on turnover NOT profit.

  • Large (turnover £50m+) – fines from £10k to £10 million
  • Medium (turnover £10m – £50m) – fines from £3k to £4 million
  • Small (turnover £2m – 10m) – fines from £700 – £1.6 million
  • Micro (turnover <£2m) – fines from £200 to £450k

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