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Last updated: 31.07.19

The Health and Safety at Work Act: Employer’s Responsibilities

What is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974? 

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is the most important piece of legislation in the UK when it comes to ensuring that workers can carry out their day-to-day jobs with a minimal risk of accident or injury. When implemented, it changed the landscape of responsibility when it came to putting in place policies to make the workplace safe, and one of the biggest things it did was place a number of requirements on employers. Whether you’re looking for a refresh, or you’re starting a new business, you may need to know the key points of this legislation, which is why we’re going to look at them here. 

Check out our Health and Safety at work Act Explanation article. Click Here. 

At the highest level, the employer quite simply has the responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of all their employees at all times. This is a broad remit and one that means employers need to do whatever is reasonable and practicable to meet their obligations. In order to better understand how this potentially complex responsibility needs to be achieved, there are a few specific areas that the legislation breaks things down into. 

Assessing risk 

It’s your responsibility as an employer to fully understand your business and the risks that it might pose to your employees. This is why a risk assessment is essential to good health and safety policy. The process of carrying out a risk assessment can in truth be fairly simple if you’re running a small office with just a handful of employees, but in larger and more dangerous buildings, the risk assessment may be a very complex. In short however, the risk assessment is about going round the place of employment and identifying any hazard that could pose a risk to the safety of people in the building, whether this is something common or highly unlikely. 

Virtual College offers a wide range of Health and Safety Training Course. Click Here to find out more. 

Helping employees avoid risk 

In order to protect your employees from the risks that you’ve identified, you will need to put measures in place to both reduce the chance of the hazard occurring, and mitigate the impact if an accident should occur. There are countless ways that this can be done, but a few of the main things that you can think about include the following: 

  • Making sure any procedures that you have in place are safe. This means for example ensuring that manual handling instructions are given for any lifting or pushing tasks. 
  • Regularly checking to make sure that equipment is safe to use. Whether you’re checking the electrical safety of computers in an office, or the effectiveness of a kill switch on dangerous machinery, you need to make sure employees are working with safe equipment. 
  • Giving employees the training that they need to carry out their jobs safely, such as how to carry out a task in such a way that avoids injury. 
  • Giving employees the tools and equipment that they need to avoid injury. Protective equipment is hugely important in many industries including construction and manufacturing. 

Consulting with employees 

The HASAWA does also make it clear that employers have a responsibility to consult employees on matters of health and safety; it’s not a one way street. After all, those that are doing the work are often best placed to understand their own needs in this regard. This consultation can be direct, through a workplace representative, or through an appointed union representative. 

The Virtual College Health and Safety Training pack is a very useful starting point for employers looking to find out more about health and safety in the workplace, and is aimed towards helping ensure that businesses meet their duties under the HASAWA, which can minimise the risk of bad publicity or lawsuits for your company. Click here to find out more.

Top Health and Safety FAQs

What is fire safety?

Fire safety is a set of procedures which aim to reduce the amount of damage and injuries caused by fires. These include risk assessments to help identify and reduce areas of fire risk and formulate an emergency and evacuation plan in the event that a fire does break out.

How often should you do fire safety training?

Whenever new staff join the business, you’ll need to ensure they’re trained on your fire safety procedures. In addition to this, if anything changes within your business which adds new risks, you will need to inform all staff of the new fire risks.

Is manual handling training a legal requirement?

Under the Manual Handling Regulations you are legally obliged to ensure all employees are trained and competent in manual handling if their responsibilities may include manual handling.

Click here to visit our full FAQ Hub

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