Health and Safety Law at Work

In the Workplace – General Provisions

Health and Safety Law is an extremely important area of law and is continually developing through innovation, interpretation and modification.

Civil Liability

Vicarious Liability

Under the tort of vicarious liability employers are held to be liable for those acts committed by employees which have caused harm to another individual. This individual could be a member of the general public, another employee or an independent contractor contracted to work on the job. The employer is said to be liable due to the control that he exercises over his employee.

In the case where the employee himself has suffered injury we need to look closely at health and safety law in the workplace and specifically the various health and safety regulations.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 impose various requirements on employers in relation to health and safety. The key obligations are as follows:

  • To undertake suitable and sufficient risk assessments
  • Following the risk assessments to make and record the Health and Safety measures which are shown to be required
  • To appoint competent people to help the implementation of the necessary health and safety arrangements
  • To set up emergency procedures
  • To provide adequate training to employees
  • To provide information to employees which is easily understandable
  • If other employers are sharing the same workspace then there must be adequate co-operation and co-ordination with those other employers.

Risk Assessments

Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of:

  • The risks to the health and safety or their employees to which they are exposed of while at work
  • The risks to the health and safety of those not in their employ arising out of or in connection with the conduct by them – this would be taken to include visitors to the premises.

Young person

An employer who employs a young person shall only do so if he has made or reviewed a risk assessment taking into account the health and safety risks of that young person. The following factors should therefore be taken into account:

  • The inexperience, lack of awareness or immaturity of the young person
  • The fitting out and layout of the workplace
  • The nature, degree and duration of exposure to risks
  • The form, range and use of work equipment
  • The organisation of activities
  • The extent of health and safety training providing to the young person

Group of five or more employees

Where an employer employs five or more employees he shall record the following:

  • The significant findings of the assessment
  • Any group of his employees whom have been identified as being specifically at risk.

Even if an employer employs less than five employees it would be advisable to record the findings despite it not being a legal requirement as if there were any claim on the ground of health and safety they would be able to show all appropriate measures where in fact taken.

Competent Persons

All employers shall appoint one or more competent persons to assist them in undertaking the required measures they need to comply with under various Health and Safety Regulations.

In order for an individual to be competent on health and safety matters they must have received health and safety training and have some relevant experience of the business in question. This means that they will be adept at spotting health and safety concerns which may arise from the usual operations of the business.

Information

The Health and Safety (Information for Employees) Regulations 1998

The  Health and Safety (Information for Employees) Regulations require information relation to health, safety and welfare to be made available to employees by means of posters or leaflets.

The posters or leaflets must be approved and published for the purposes of the regulations by the Health and Safety Executive.

Each poster must also contain the name and address of the enforcing authority and also the address of the Employment Medical Advisory Service.

Specific Forms of Posters

There are specific posters which apply to various kinds of employment. An employer can apply to the Health and Safety Executive to display an alternative poster if he can demonstrate the following:

  • A defined industry or group of employers
  • A clear demand for the alternative poster

First Aid

The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981

The Health and Safety (First Aid) regulations impose the following duties on employers:

  • An employer shall ensure that such equipment and facilities which are adequate and appropriate are made available to enable first aid to be administered to employees who are injured or become ill at work
  • To provide first aid if it is required
  • To inform all employees or the first aid arrangements made

The Approved Code of Practice regarding first aid

This approved code ensures employers consider a number of factors in determining what is adequate first aid provision. These factors include the following:

  • Number of employees
  • Nature of the business
  • The size of the workplace and the distribution of employees
  • Location of the establishment   
  • Whether shift work is in operation
  • The distance from outside medical services for example the local accident and emergency department

Premises

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Workplace) Regulations 1992

The  Workplace (Health, Safety and Workplace) Regulations define a workplace as any premises or part of a premises that are not domestic premises and are made available to anyone as a place of work. They include any place on the premises where an individual will have access to during his work and any means of access at work – lobby, corridor, staircase, road.

They do not apply to ships, construction sites or quarries.

The Regulations lay down requirements which deal with the following issues  in the workplace:

  • Maintenance of equipment – Regulation 5
  • Ventilation – Regulation 6
  • Temperature in indoor workplaces – Regulation 7
  • Lighting – Regulation 8
  • Cleanliness and waste materials – Regulation 9
  • Room dimensions and space – Regulation 10
  • Workstations and seating – Regulation 11
  • Condition of floors and traffic routes – Regulation 12
  • Falling objects – Regulation 13
  • Windows, transparent walls or doors – Regulation 14, 15 & 16
  • Traffic Routes – Regulation 17
  • Doors and gates – Regulation 18
  • Escalators and moving walkways – Regulation 19
  • Sanitary Conveniences – Regulation 20
  • Washing facilities – Regulation 21
  • Drinking water – Regulation 22
  • Clothing – Regulation 23 & 24
  • Rest facilities – Regulation 25