Health and Safety Compliance

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In our previous articles, we have mentioned the Health and Safety Executive and The Health and Safety at Work Act. What sets them apart and why it is important to get familiar with the regulations? We answer the most asked questions in this article.

What is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSAWA)?

The Act is a combination of laws that enforces general duties which:

  • employers have towards employees and members of the public
  • employees have to themselves and to each other
  • certain self-employed have towards themselves and others

This Act aims to enhance health, safety, and welfare at work, protect against health and safety risks related to work activities, regulate dangerous substances, control emissions into the atmosphere, improve the employment medical advisory service, and amend building regulations and the Building (Scotland) Act 1959, among other connected purposes.

What is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. They are dedicated to protecting people and places, and helping everyone lead safer and healthier lives.

Their role goes beyond worker protection to include public assurance. They work to ensure people feel safe where they live, where they work and, in their environment.

Brief history of events that have shaped the Health and Safety at Work Act

Many legislations over the last few centuries have been passed in order to improve the well-being of the citizens of Great Britain. The earliest seen back in 1602 – The Poor Law, by the Government of Elizabeth I,: “Enforcing the parishes to collect taxes to support people who could not work”. The next few centuries see laws attempting to protect the youngest workers in mills and as chimney sweepers, setting the minimum age at 10. By the year the law was passed, several large-scale incidents had happened, resulting in many deaths. It was clear that a big change had to be made to unite all legislations and laws under one Act to cover all various workplaces and those affected by the actions of businesses to prevent from more harm being done.

Who does the HSAWA apply to?

The Act is in place to protect everyone who is affected (directly or not) by the business. The terms set out in The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 can help set some equivocal terms to perspective:

‘Workplace’ – these Regulations apply to a very wide range of workplaces, not only factories, shops and offices but also, for example, schools, hospitals, hotels and places of entertainment. The term workplace also includes the common parts of shared buildings, private roads and paths on industrial estates and business parks, and temporary worksites (except workplaces involving construction work on construction sites). ‘Work’ – means work as an employee or self-employed person. ‘Premises’ – means any place including an outdoor place. ‘Domestic premises’ – means a private dwelling. These Regulations do not apply to domestic premises, and exclude homeworkers. However, they do apply to hotels, nursing homes and to parts of workplaces where ‘domestic’ staff are employed, such as the kitchens of hostels.

Many organisations are under the false assumption that they are exempt from HSAWA, as they do not fall under the traditional term “business” – such as non-profit organisations, schools, afterschool clubs etc., but as long as you provide services to the public, the Act still applies. For more guidance, if your establishment is exempt, please read here.

Whilst largely focused on employers, the law also applies to employees. These include temporary, self-employed, managers etc. If an employee has caused harm to others by disregarding safe practices, despite being trained to execute a job safely, they can be charged by civil law.

How if Health and Safety monitored and maintained? 

As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure Health and Safety is managed. This management should ensure the safety of your employees and those coming (directly or not) in contact with your business. As well as managing risks, you should continuously review your plans to see if they are working and if any changes need to be made, including any additional training. Risk assessments are not only a legal requirement, but also an essential tool in supporting your understanding, as an employer, of what aspects of your business need monitoring. This can be actioned through training (and keeping training records), reporting and recording accidents and incidents in RIDDOR, monitoring sickness and absence, providing correct First Aid provision etc. For more information, browse here. Following the 4 step process suggested in HSE will enable you with the tools to manage the expectations set out in the law.

Health and Safety Inspections

The enforcement of compliance with Health and Safety law is split between HSE and Local Authorities(LA). The LA is guided by the Local Authority Enforcement Code. The Local Authority can turn up unnanounced if the targeted activities and sections are of high risk published in the HSE and/or if they have reason to suspect that risks are not being effectively managed. For more guidance on the allocation of and enforcements read here.

Why is Health and Safety important?

Since the increase of laws and legislations in relation to various Health and Safety aspects, there has been a significant downfall in the number of fatal injuries to employees.

Graph taken from HSE

Accurate adherence to health and safety not only decreases the rate of such statistics, but correct reporting also ensures HSE is able to monitor the rates and implement any changes.

Latest figures from reports show an increase in the rate of self-reported work-related stress, depression or anxiety.

Graph taken from HSE

Latest suggestions to First Aid provision ensure employers take Mental Health into consideration when conducting Risk assessments.

The Act has contributed to an overall improvement in the well-being of employees, although more could be done. The last independent study in 2011 made suggestions to make improvements to the Act. Some of these improvements have been actioned, whilst more could still be done.

The Act aims to ensure the prevention of work-related injuries and fatalities. Near fatalities, complaints and inspections where misconduct is found can result in heavy fines and in some cases even prison sentences, alongside a ruined reputation. Not only does this affect the employer, but if an employee is found to operate using dangerous procedures or contribute to misconduct, despite correct training provided, they can be charged under civil law, or in many cases, result in their own fatality. HSE produces reports on companies with successful practices as well as around fatalities.