Employer?s Health and Safety Responsibilities

Tuesday, August 14, 2012



Employers have responsibilities for the health and safety of their employees. They are also responsible for any visitors to their premises such as customers, suppliers and the general public. Find out more about your employer’s duty of care. 




Risk Assessments 




Your employer has a ‘duty of care’ to ensure, as far as possible, your health, safety and welfare while you are at work. They should start with a risk assessment to spot possible health and safety hazards. They have to appoint a ‘competent person’ with health and safety responsibilities (usually one of the owners in smaller firms, or a member of staff trained in health and safety) for businesses employing five or more people. For businesses employing five or more people, there must also be:





an official record of what the assessment finds (your employer has to put plans in place to deal with the risks) 


a formal health and safety policy, including arrangements to protect your health and safety (you should be told what these


All employers, whatever the size of the business, must:





make the workplace safe


prevent risks to health


ensure that plant and machinery is safe to use, and that safe working practices are set up a followed


make sure that all materials are handled, stored and used safely


provide adequate first aid facilities


tell you about any potential hazards from the work you do, chemicals and other substances used by the firm, and give you information, instructions, training and supervision as needed


set up emergency plans


make sure that ventilation, temperature, lighting, and toilet, washing and rest facilities all meet health, safety and welfare requirements


check that the right work equipment is provided and is properly used and regularly maintained


prevent or control exposure to substances that may damage your health


take precautions against the risks caused by flammable or explosive hazards, electrical equipment, noise and radiation


avoid potentially dangerous work involving manual handling and if it can’t be avoided, take precautions to reduce the risk of injury


provide health supervision as needed


provide protective clothing or equipment free of charge if risks can’t be removed or adequately controlled by any other meansensure that the right warning signs are provided and looked after


report certain accidents, injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences to either the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or the local authority, depending on the type of business


Making the workplace safe and healthy




So that the work premises provide a safe and healthy place to work, your employer should:





make sure that workplaces are properly ventilated, with clean and fresh air


keep temperatures at a comfortable level – a minimum of 13 degrees C where the work involves physical activity or 16 degrees C for ‘sedentary’ workplaces eg offices but there’s no maximum limit


light premises so that employees can work and move about safely


keep the workplace and equipment clean


ensure that workrooms are big enough to allow easy movement with at least 11 cubic metres per person 


provide workstations to suit the employees and the work 


keep the workplace and equipment in good working order


make floors, walkways, stairs, roadways etc safe to use


protect people from falling from height or into dangerous substances


store things so they are unlikely to fall and cause injuries


fit openable windows, doors and gates with safety devices if needed


provide suitable washing facilities and clean drinking water


if necessary, provide somewhere for employees to get changed and to store their own clothes


set aside areas for rest breaks and to eat meals, including suitable facilities for pregnant women and nursing mothers


let employees take appropriate rest breaks and their correct holiday entitlement


make sure that employees who work alone, or off-site, can do so safely and healthily


What to do next 





You also have responsibilities for your own health and safety at work. You can refuse to do something that isn’t safe without being threatened with disciplinary action.


If you think your employer isn’t meeting their responsibilities, talk to them first. Your safety representative or a trade union official may be able to help you with this. As a last resort, you may need to report your employer to the Health and Safety Executive or to the environmental health department of your local authority.


If you are dismissed for refusing to undertake an unsafe working practice, you may have a right to claim unfair dismissal at an Employment Tribunal.


Information provided by Direct Gov 




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