Law, Policy and Risk Assessments

Health and Safety Law – The Basics

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSW Act) is a wide ranging topic. It is a criminal offence to breach duties imposed under it. The main act is merely enabling legislation, to be filled from time to time with detailed regulations, having the full force of the law. This Act is also supported by Approved Codes of Practice and Guidance.

The basic duties of both employers and employees have under the Health and Safety at work regulations are highlighted below.

Employer’s duties

Every employer has the general duty "to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees".

this includes:

  • maintenance of premises, plant and other systems related to work in a safe and risk free environment;
  • measures for safety and absence of risks to health in connection with the use, handling, storage and transport of articles and substances;
  • provision of instruction, training and supervision as necessary to ensure the health and safety at work of your employees.

Employee’s duties

The act also lays down certain duties for employees. According to the regulations, the duties of the employees include:

  1. taking reasonable care for the health and safety of themselves and other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work;
  2. to co-operate with all staff to ensure that all requirements ands procedures, whether related to health and safety or not, can be carried out.

The employer should keep an eye on any potential aspects that can cause injury etc, to your employee. Put a strong emphasis on duties of an employee both in his contract of employment and by notices and the occasional meeting.

Health and Safety Policy

The HSW Act 1974 requires that if you employ five or more people you must have a written health and safety policy.

It must:

  • State that the company is committed to health and safety of employees and this statement must be signed and dated by the employer, (a Director or similar).
    • Training
    • First aid
    • Accident records and reports
    • Housekeeping and cleaning
    • Maintenance
    • Protective equipment
    • Contractors
    • General workplace conditions

Risk Assessment

The purpose of a risk assessment is to check that you are complying with health and safety laws. To ensure that the assessments are 'suitable and sufficient' you should:

  • Look at guidance e.g. what is the industry norm or Best Practice - do you comply or exceed?
  • Talk to staff
  • Identify hazards
  • Identify existing controls
  • Decide if additional controls are needed
  • Write it all down
  • Write down who is responsible for putting any additional controls in place and the date by which it must be finished
  • Check that all controls are in place and effective (ask staff)
  • Review annually or if anything changes
  • Remember to assess the risks from infrequent work activities such as clearing gutters as well as normal activities such as using a computer

In most businesses the matters that would normally be considered in a risk assessment are:

  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Manual handling
  • Workplace transport
  • Falls from heights and falling objects
  • Fire
  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Display Screen Equipment
  • Lone working/violence
  • Stress
  • Passive smoking
  • Office activities
  • Kitchen activities
  • Cleaning (hazardous substances, electrical appliances)
  • Maintenance (building and grounds)
  • Power tools
  • Flammable substances
  • Hazardous substances

You need to think if there are any other hazards arising from work activities or your site.

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Last Updated: 22.05.2008 at 16:52

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