Business Focus: Health and safety legislation

Blackboard with white chalk written letters which reads

Health and Safety legislation is a universal concept that relates to all business establishments. UK law states that organisations must:

  • Assess risk to employees, customers, partners and any other people who could be affected by their activities;
  • Arrange for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of preventive and protective measures;
  • Have a written health and safety policy if they employ five or more people;
  • Ensure they have access to competent health and safety advice;
  • Consult employees about their risks at work and current preventive and protective measures.

Research recently published by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has highlighted that many employers are failing their health and safety duties with sometimes devastating effects. Some of the shocking statistics are highlighted below:

Statistics on fatal injuries in the workplace in Great Britain 2014:

  • 42 fatal injuries to workers in construction in 2014
  • There were 133 worker deaths in 2013/14 compared to 150 worker fatalities in 2012/13
  • There were 70 members of the public fatally injured in accidents connected to work in 2013/14 (excluding railways-related incidents)

What does this mean for employers?

Although the recent figures show a general decline in fatal accidents from the previous year, there is evidently room for improvement.

If you have less than five employees you legally do not need to have a written health and safety policy – however, in the interest of protecting your employees you may want to consider having a health and safety policy in place. Either way, you could still potentially face a claim if one of your employees were to suffer an accident, injury, illness or even damage to their personal property.

Failure to comply with health and safety requirements can have long-term consequences for both organisations and individuals including fines, imprisonment and disqualification.

In the event that an establishment is accused of breaking any health and safety law, the HSE may be brought in to investigate. As part of its Fee for Intervention scheme, the establishment would be required to pay £129 an hour for its investigation.

With this in mind business owners may wish to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their employees in the workplace. Fortunately, putting clear and sensible policies in place needn’t be complicated or cost a lot of money.

What can you do to?

If you are looking to create an effective health and safety policy you can visit the HSE website where you can download a template to help you.

Hopefully, after writing your health and safety policy down you will be able to identify potential risks within your establishment. It may also provide valuable assistance with regards to completing comprehensive risk assessments and workplace policies in order to grant you with the capabilities to better manage your establishment’s health and safety.

Most importantly, it may help you to ensure that your company is compliant with the law and that you avoid any potential HSE fees and possible court claims.