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Health and safety in the workplace: what you need to know

The purpose of health and safety law is to ensure a safe working environment for employees. In the UK, this requires employers to meet health and safety obligations and legislations.

The policies, procedures and practices that exist to protect employees from hazards on the job should not only comply with UK law, but also serve as a foundation for protecting their health in order maximise productivity, while minimising downtime or lost wages due to injuries sustained during employment.

Health and safety is more than just following the rules, employers have a moral obligation to protect those around us. Any workplace must have a health and safety policy if they have 5 employees or more.

Why is health and safety important at work?

In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive is the government agency which advises on legislation and guidance, and enforces them.

Health and safety at work is an integral part of managing a company, with many different duties that aim to make sure employees are safe. There are many relevant pieces of legislation which impose legal duties on health & safety matters, from providing insurance and written policies on health and safety, to appropriate training for staff, risk assessments and monitoring.

There are also numerous initiatives and guidance aimed at promoting a holistic, proactive approach to health and wellbeing issues at work, improving employees’ work performance and reducing sickness absence.

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The UK law on health & safety at work

All employers have legal responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) covers all workplaces, and states that employers must do everything reasonably practicable to provide a safe and healthy workplace. The HSWA is supplemented by many statutes, regulations, codes of practice and guidance.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 set out in more detail what employers are required to do to manage health and safety under HSWA. This includes risk assessments, where an employer must assess whether it has taken sufficient precautions to prevent damage and injury to their workforce.

Health & safety obligations for employers

In the UK, employers’ duties at a minimum include:

  • Publish a health and safety policy, if they employ more than 5 people
  • Establishing procedures to be followed in the event of serious and imminent danger to a person working in an organisation
  • Monitor and improve safety arrangements.
  • Inform staff of risks and steps taken to protect them
  • Appoint health and safety representatives in the company where needed
  • Take out compulsory insurance policies, known as Employers’ liability insurance
  • Appoint a competent person to evaluate risks and hazards and undertake risk assessments
  • Monitor and improve safety arrangements

Health and safety policies

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, all employers with more than five employees must have a written health and safety policy. Failure to do so can lead to potential criminal penalties, including large fines and imprisonment. Employers with fewer than five employees may still find it useful to put their health and safety procedure into writing.

A health and safety policy should:

  • Demonstrate a commitment to managing health and safety in the workplace
  • Contain a general statement of intent to provide a safe and healthy working environment
  • Be easily accessible and communicated to all employees within the organisation
  • Give details of health and safety responsibilities and name appointed persons
  • Cover the systems and procedures in place
  • Cover risk assessments
  • Include arrangements for employee consultation, maintaining equipment and safe handling of substances
  • Explain arrangements for training, supervision, accidents, first aid and emergencies
  • Address stress, and alcohol and drug misuse

There should also be a system to review and monitor the policy.

The HSE provides further guidance on writing a health and safety policy.

Risk assessments

Employers in every industry must regularly undertake risk assessments.

Typical risk assessments in the workplace could include:

  • Workstations and display screen equipment – Employers have a duty to protect their workers from the health risks associated with working
  • Noise levels – Particularly relevant in construction, risk assessments must be made to ensure noise levels keep risks at a minimum
  • Hazardous chemicals – The regulations of Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 are referred to as COSHH. Under this law, employers are required to control all substances that are harmful to health in the workplace (including nano-materials.)
  • Handling and lifting heavy loads – Employers have a duty to ensure adequate training in manual handling is provided to reduce the risks of workplace injuries
  • Stress risk assessment – The HSE advises that employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by carrying out a stress risk assessment and acting on it.

Following any risk assessment, employers must:

  • Record the significant findings of their risk assessments
  • Make arrangements to implement any health and safety measures identified as necessary by the risk assessment
  • Set up emergency procedures
  • Appoint people to help implement the arrangements
  • Provide clear information and training to employees
  • Work together with other employers sharing the same workplace

Health and safety online training

PD Training offers a variety of health and safety online courses, all certified by CPD. The aim is to provide learners with the appropriate knowledge and understanding of workplace health and safety, while understanding their roles and responsibilities to maintain a healthy and safe work environment, allowing them and their colleagues to perform their job safely.

Our e-learning courses are broken down into clear and manageable sections and can be worked through at the learners own pace.

We offer health and safety in the workplace online training, risk assessment training, fire warden training and much more to keep your workplace safe and compliant.

For more information, contact us on 01344 830015 or email info@pd-training.co.uk

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