Providing HR & employment law support

Your Health and Safety Responsibilities

As an employer you will have a common law and statutory duties relating to the health and safety of your employees, contractors and members of the public.

At common law, employers:

• must provide and maintain a safe place of work, a safe system of work and safe plant and machinery;
• must employ competent staff;
• can be vicariously liable for the results of the negligent acts of their employees while working in the course of their
employment; and
• can be liable for certain occupational diseases (for example, asbestosis) if they are considered to have been on notice of the
risks of the disease materialising.

Under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and its related regulations and approved codes of practice, employers have a general duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees.

In practice, you should ensure that:

• the provision and maintenance of plant and systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without
risks to health;
• the safe use, handling, storage and transport of articles and substances;
• you provide information, instruction, training and supervision as is required to protect, so far as is reasonably practicable, the
health and safety of employees at work;
• the places of work under your control are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe for work and without risks to health (with
safe entrances and exits); and
• you provide and maintain a safe working environment with adequate facilities and arrangements for welfare at work.

Do you need a Health and Safety Policy?

If you employ five or more people, you must have a written statement of your organisation’s general health and safety policy (a health and safety policy statement) and this should be brought to the attention of all employees.

The policy should set out the arrangements for carrying out the policy and confirm who has overall responsibility for health and safety within your organisation. You may also give particular responsibilities to certain staff and this can be set out in the policy.

Even if you employ less than five employees, it is best practice to set out your health and safety policy in writing for all staff to see.

Top 10 Health and Safety Tips

The following top 10 tips should ensure that you fulfill your health and safety obligations and minimise the risks of claims by your employees.

1. Risk assessments

If carried out on a regular basis these can be an important way to limit the health and safety risks for your employees. Consider the areas of risk within your organisation and how these can be overcome. You should also carry out individual risk assessments for each employee, including any employees who work at home.

2. Use of equipment

Ensure that all staff are adequately trained to use the equipment that they operate whilst at work.

3. Manual handling

If staff are required to lift or carry heavy objects, do ensure that they have been given guidance on how best to do this without risking injury.

4. Display screen equipment (DSE)

You will have a responsibility to provide free eye and eyesight tests to all employees who use VDU equipment. If an employee is required to wear special glasses for use with a VDU at work, you are also required to make a contribution towards the cost of basic frames and lenses.

5. Emergency evacuation and fire precautions

Do ensure that all staff are aware of the procedures for evacuating the buildings in the event of an emergency. You will want to appoint fire wardens and ensure that they understand their responsibilities.

6. Accidents and first aid

All staff should be required to record any accident or injury sustained at work in an accident book. You should also identify your first
aiders and ensure that they are adequately trained.

7. Employee support and assistance

Many employers are now putting in place arrangements to assist and support their employees through times of stress and upset. Providing access to externally managed employee assistance programmers, including counseling helplines, for example, can be really beneficial for staff and can also reduce overall levels of sickness absence, increase performance and productivity, and may also limit your exposure to potential claims of stress etc.

8. Pregnant or disabled employees

You will have additional responsibilities for employees who are pregnant or disabled. Always seek advice if you are unsure about what these are or if you need practical support in dealing with these situations.

9. Record keeping

Keep records of all steps taken to ensure the health and safety of your employees.

10. Review regularly

Keep all health and safety checks under review and learn from any incidents that may happen.

Joanna Atkinson
Practice Director, Solicitor

T +44 (0)1252 821792


This article is published for information only based on the law currently in force or as it is currently anticipated. It does not constitute or contain legal advice and should not be considered as a legal opinion or as a substitute for legal advice.