"Health and safety gone mad" is a phrase we all hear from time to time, and it seems to imply that the regulations are incredibly complicated and over-fussy. We'll let you be the judge of that. But to help you decide, here's a quick guide to what the average employer needs to know about the UK's main health and safety regulations.
All health and safety regulations in the UK are based on the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. How do they apply to a specific business? That depends on its size and what it does - which is why expert advice and training from us at Phoenix is so valuable. But the main thrust of the regulations is a set of general duties that apply to all employers.
Good for business as well as employees
The regulations are designed to protect employees and the public from harm in the workplace. Just as importantly, following the regulations will help to protect the business and enable it to trade successfully. That's because, as well as potentially harming people, companies that fail to comply with the regulations can:
- Be prosecuted and heavily fined
- Develop a reputation that's very bad for business
- Find it difficult to attract and retain a skilled workforce
Assess the risks
The starting point for every employer is to carry out a risk assessment. This is a straightforward process for most companies, especially small and low risk businesses. It simply means identifying what the main risks of the workplace are, so the right steps can be taken to control and minimise those risks.
Companies with five or more employees need to write down the results of their risk assessment and keep the findings on record. If you need to conduct a risk assessment, talking to the expert Phoenix team is a great first step.
Nobody is expecting a business to be completely risk-free or to control unforeseeable risks. But the regulations do expect you to identify the risks and control them "so far as reasonably practicable". And there's a good deal of discretion about how to control the risks once they have been assessed. The regulations are "goal setting". They only start getting prescriptive for the most dangerous processes and industries such as explosives and mining.
To comply with the regulations every employer also needs to:
- Nominate a "responsible person" to take charge of health and safety on the premises
- Write and keep a record of your health and safety policy (if there are five or more employees)
- Control the risks the assessment has identified
- Consult with employees on health and safety matters
- Provide the relevant training and information
- Provide the facilities and equipment required to control the risks identified by the assessment
- Have first aid arrangements in place. This doesn't necessarily mean having a trained and qualified first aider, but it does mean having a suitably stocked first aid box and nominating a person to be in charge of first aid
Other regulations employers need to be aware of include the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which cover matter such as ventilation, heating, lighting and setting up workstations.
There are also specific regulations on visual display equipment and protective clothing, working equipment and machinery, manual handling operations, first aid, the need to keep employees informed, the need for Employer's Liability Insurance, the reporting of injuries and incidents, noise at work, electricity at work and the control of hazardous substances.
One final fact about the UK health and safety regulations: they are constantly changing and evolving. Which is why it's sensible to have health and safety knowledge and qualifications regularly updated. Talk to the Phoenix team for clear advice on how to stay compliant and up to date in the simplest, most cost-effective way.