In the UK, there are laws in place to keep employers and their employees – including temps, casual workers, and the self-employed – safe. UK regulations also cover their premises, clients, visitors, and the general public. These laws are known as the Health and Safety at Work Etc Act.
While an employer is mainly responsible for these regulations, some responsibility also falls onto the employees themselves. In this article we will be looking at what the responsibilities are for both employers and employees and how to follow them in best practice.
Employers must provide a safe and healthy place of work, and manage the safety and welfare of their workers. This means employers must:
1. Provide a safe system of work
Employers must specify a set of procedures according to which work must be carried out.
2. Maintain safe equipment and machinery
This means that equipment and machinery cannot be damaged. Employers must check all equipment on a regular basis, in accordance with the Health & Safety at Work Act.
3. Hire safe and competent people
Employers are also liable for the actions of their staff and managers.
4. Carry out risk assessments
Risk assessments are vital to maintaining good health and safety practice. Employers must then take steps to eliminate or control any risks they identify. These are set out in regulations.
5. Inform workers of potential hazards
Potential hazards include chemical substances, or hazardous activities. As well as warning workers of these hazards, employers should also provide instruction, training, and supervision.
6. Appoint a ‘competent person’
The Health and Safety at Work Act stipulates that employers must appoint a competent person who is responsible for health and safety. This person doesn’t need any specific qualifications or training, although this can be helpful. Employers can choose to appoint themselves as the competent person.
7. Liaise with workplace safety representatives
If a union is recognised, your employer must set up and attend a workplace safety committee of two or more safety reps.
8. Provide adequate facilities for staff welfare at work
Employers must provide sufficient toilets, washing, changing facilities, a place to rest, and somewhere clean to eat and drink during breaks.
Complying with the Health and Safety at Work Act
If an employer does not abide by these regulations, they are breaking the law and risk being fined or imprisoned. If an employee or member of the public becomes injured because of this malpractice, the penalties can be even more severe.
While employers primarily have the responsibility for health and safety at work, employees also have a Duty of Care as specified under Section 20 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984. These duties are:
- Take care of any equipment or workwear you are provided with.
- Follow the health and safety instructions as given by your employer (as long as they are good practice).
- Work safely to ensure your own health and safety.
- Work safely to ensure the health and safety of those who work alongside you.
- Report any hazards, injuries, or ill health to your supervisor or employer.
If an employee is injured in their workplace, they may or may not be entitled to any compensation. This depends on whether the injury was a result of them not following the regulations set out by the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Your Rights as an Employee
If an employee believes their workplace is unsafe, they have the right to refuse to work without consequence. It is always best to join a union if you are able and contact them for further advice.
Another Way to Keep Safe at Work
Lone worker alarms ensure that workers can call for assistance with just the touch of a button.
To find out more about our Lone Alarms, click here to read our guide or call our friendly team on 0800 03 08 222.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 9th August 2023 to reflect current information.