Employers risk huge fines and even imprisonment if they fail to implement the correct health and safety duties, however the effective enforcement of this law has recently been questioned. Charles Price explains.
An employer's duties
- Employers are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of their employees and those that are affected by their activities so far as reasonably practicable (sections 2 and 3, HSWA 1974)
- An employer must assess and review the work-related risks faced by its employees and by others affected by the company's activities. This risk assessment must be "sufficient and suitable" (regulation 3, the regulations)
- An employer must make and give effect to appropriate arrangements for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures (regulation 5, the regulations)
- An employer must audit the adequacy of these procedures (regulation 3, the regulations)
- One or more competent persons must be appointed to implement the measures needed to comply with health and safety law (regulation 7, the regulations)
- An employer must provide its employees with understandable and relevant information and training on the risks they face and the preventive and protective measures to control those risks (regulations 10 and 13 of the Regulations and the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996)
- Produce a written health and safety policy
- Describe the arrangements for putting the policy into practice
- Bring the policy and any revision of it to the attention of employees
- Revise the policy whenever appropriate (section 2 and section 3, HSWA 1974; regulation 2, Employers' Health and Safety Policy Statements (Exception) Regulations 1975)
- Record appropriate arrangements for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures (regulation 5, the regulations)
- Record the significant findings of risk assessments and any group of employees identified by it as especially at risk (regulation 3, the regulations)
I know from talking to personal injury barristers that the strict Health and Safety laws we have in this country mean less work for the lawyers when it comes to deaths and personal injury claims. Further, it makes sense that a safe workforce is happier and thus more productive. Clearly, however, such a system requires an effective enforcement policy.
Charles Price is a barrister and runs www.charlesprice.net and www.lawnewsuk.co.uk which contains a blog on UK employment law and regular news.
Charles has enjoyed stints as the employment lawyer at Bristol and Sheffield City Councils and now works as a barrister at No5 Chambers.
An expert in employment law Charles has been instructed in cases of sex, race and disability discrimination. He has extensive experience in unfair dismissal, redundancy, contracts of employment, pregnancy related dismissal, constructive dismissal, minimum wage claims, compromise agreements, post termination covenants, holiday pay disputes, parental leave, deductions from wages, variation of contractual terms, whistleblowing, business transfers, harassment and breach of contract claims.
As well as advocacy work, Charles has considerable experience of advisory and drafting work, preparing pleadings for the County Court, Employment Tribunals and The Employment Appeals Tribunal. Charles has acted as a disciplinary officer in various tribunals and has appeared in the Employment Appeals Tribunal.