Health and safety at work

The cornerstone of work-related health and safety legislation in the UK is the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, or HSWA. It imposes general duties on all employers and the self-employed to ensure the health and safety of those who may be affected by their business activities, and on employees to look after their own safety. It also allows outdated, prescriptive legislation to be replaced by objective-setting Regulations, supported by ACoPs and guidance notes.

The European Union instigates many changes in UK health and safety legislation by issuing EU directives that Member States are required to implement by passing their own legislation. The HSWA allows such requirements to be implemented in the UK as Regulations.

An employer with five or more employees must prepare and regularly review a written health and safety policy statement, to set out how health and safety is managed in the organisation. This may include the organisational structure and detailed arrangements for health, safety and welfare. The employer must also bring it to every employee’s attention.

Employers must also have in place such arrangements as are necessary to effectively plan, organise, control, monitor and review any preventive and protective measures.

As well as a responsibility to his or her employees, employers must also conduct his business so as to ensure that non-employees are not exposed to health and safety risks.

Employees, too, have responsibilities. While at work, employees have a duty:

• not to endanger themselves or others through their acts or omissions; and
• to cooperate with their employer, e.g. by wearing protective equipment.

It should also be noted that occupiers of premises owe a duty of care to both lawful visitors and trespassers.