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Health and safety legislation UK

Your guide to Health and safety legislation in the UK

In the UK, we have laws in the workplace that are governed by Health and Safety Legislation.

As a business owner, it is vital that you understand how workplace health and safety legislation applies to you and your business in the UK.

Therefore, the aim of this article is to help business owners gain the necessary information they need in order to ensure their business complies with current health and safety regulations in the United Kingdom.

The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) enforces Health and Safety legislation in the workplace within the UK.

In this article we will outline the basics that you need to know about, understand, implement and manage when it comes to adhering to Health and Safety legislation and regulations for your business in the UK.

How can I comply with Health and Safety legislation?

It is your duty as a business owner and employer to ensure you use someone who is competent in helping you to meet your health and safety duties under UK legislation.

Whilst this person doesn’t require any formal qualifications or training as such (as it’s not required by law), if a person is trained in Health and Safety then it can be very beneficial.

This appointed person could be yourself, one of your employees or an external Health and Safety Advisor, so long as they have the proven skills, knowledge and experience.

Generally, the advice is that you should aim to keep the management of Health and Safety within your business, providing you have someone who is competent within your workforce.

Despite what you may think, it isn’t that difficult to manage health and safety in your workplace, and as you know your workplace inside out and any risks it may pose, you can usually do it yourself with the help of your employees.

However, if this isn’t possible because there isn’t anyone within the workforce with the appropriate skills or knowledge to do it, or your business is too large, then you will need to outsource to someone externally who will be able to provide you with suitable help and advice.

Make sure you get the right safety law advice

Finding a suitable external Health and Safety Advisor or Consultant can be a daunting prospect for some business owners, as it can be difficult to know who to trust.

Their main task will be to help you comply with UK Health and Safety legislation, so you must ensure they either have suitable qualifications, training or practical experience within your industry. They must also be insured.

A good Health and Safety Consultant should help you to be better at managing health and safety yourself, will cater for your individual needs and should be clear on what they’ll do and when they’ll do it.

They will be able to help you with health and safety management across your business by putting things in place to control specific risks in the workplace and helping you to check and maintain these controls.

For the best advice and service, the safety advisor should visit your workplace so that they don’t just end up giving you generic advice.

Any safety advice they do give you should be based on their own knowledge and experience of your industry and processes.

Risks they point out should be significant and not trivial, and they should recommend control measures that you can quite easily put into place.

How to find a Health and Safety Consultant in the UK

If you are looking for help in finding a suitable Health and Safety Consultant to help you comply with UK workplace safety legislation, then the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR) should be your first port of call.

OSHCR is a register of consultants who can offer your business advice and guidance and includes the details of fully trained professionals who also have valid insurance and have thorough and up to date knowledge on healthy and safety legislation.

Find a Health & Safety consultant on OSHCR.

If you are struggling to find the help you need using the OSHCR link above, then there are certain organisations that can help you that will consist of your local council, safety groups, trade unions and associations, health and safety advisors/training organisations and equipment suppliers.

Workplace health and safety risk assessments

If you’re an employer in the United Kingdom, then according to the health and safety regulations, it is your duty to protect your employees and workers from coming into any harm whilst working for you.

Therefore, it is your duty under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to assess and control any risks in the workplace.

There are 3 main elements to this, which you as an employer must do as an absolute minimum according to UK health and safety legislation.

These include identifying any potential hazards to health (ie anything that could cause an illness or injury), measuring how likely this hazard could occur, and what action you are going to take to either minimise the risk associated with this hazard as best as possible, or eliminate this potential hazard and any associated risks altogether.

Identifying and assessing these risks in the workplace will vary depending on the type and size of your business, but for most small to medium sized businesses, the process should be fairly straight forward.

workplace risk assessments UK health & safety
Carrying out a risk assessment is the first step to making your workplace safe

How many steps are there to a risk assessment?

As a guide, the following steps should be sufficient in helping to create a workplace risk assessment in line with UK health and safety legislation for most business types:-

1. Identify any safety hazards in the workplace

The very first thing you should do is to take a good look around your workplace and look out for any potential hazards. It can be useful for more than one person to do this and some hazards may be more obvious than others.

For example, there may be some loose computer cables behind a desk that could cause a tripping hazard.

But there will equally be hazards lurking that are a lot less obvious, which is why it can be a good idea for a couple of people to brainstorm and look around the premises.

Take into account the layout and general condition and age of the premises, any machinery, equipment or chemicals used by staff and if they are appropriately trained to use them, conditions for vulnerable workers, current working practices and so on.

Use your common sense and you should be able to quite easily identify all the potential hazards to health around the workplace.

2. Assess the risks to employees health

Once you’ve identified all of these hazards, you should then think about the possible consequences and the risks to health of employees, contractors and even visitors.

You will need to decide who could be harmed and how they may come into harm as a results of any of the hazards you’ve identified.

Plus, you need to decide what control measures, if any, are already in place to control the risks, any additional actions you may need to take and identify who’s responsible for carrying out these actions and by when.

3. Control any health and safety risks identified

Ask yourself what control measures are already in place and how they are being controlled.

Is it possible you can get rid of the hazard you’ve identified altogether? If this isn’t possible, then ask yourself how you can significantly reduce the risk so that anyone getting harmed is very unlikely.

For example, you could put further control measures in place to reduce risk of injury or harm such as providing workers with safety clothing and personal protective equipment (PPE), having repair works carried out around the building, replacing or repariging old machinery, implementing new safer working processes and so on.

The idea isn’t to totally eliminate all risks that have been identified, but to do your best to control them and protect your employees as best as you can and as reasonably practical in order to be compliant with UK health and safety legislation.

4. Record what you find in a risk assessment

UK health and safety legislation states that you must go on to complete a full written record of your findings in the form of a risk assessment if you have 5 or more employees.

A risk assessment has to include full details of all the potential hazards you’ve discovered, who they may harm, how they may be harmed and what you are doing as an employer to control and manage the risks.

Each businesses risk assessment will be different depending on the type and size of business, so it isn’t a simple as one template suits all.

However, if you’d like to see some examples of completed workplace risk assessments to give you some idea, then take a look at these risks assessments on the HSE website.

5. Review the control measures and update as necessary

Once you have compiled a risk assessment, it’s important to periodically review the control measures you’ve put in place to make sure they are working.

It’s also vital that if there are any changes in the workplace that could affect these controls, then you review them and update the risk assessment to reflect these changes.

For example, certain processes may have since changed, new staff may have been employed or new equipment installed.

There may also have been an accident, incident or problem that has occurred since the risk assessment was originally implemented.

As such, you may find that the control measures you’d previously put in place are no longer working effectively, meaning you may need to change them and update your risk assessment accordingly.

Information & training for Health and Safety in the workplace

UK health and safety legislation states that employers must provide free health and safety information and training to all employees, including contractors and the self employed.

Different working environments will require different levels of training.

For example, office workers are considered to work in a low risk business, so simple instructions and guidance on health and safety should be adequate.

Whereas workers operating dangerous machinery for example will require extensive training on how to operate that machinery.

Decide on the level of information and training your staff will need and keep training records to identify what training they’ve received and any additional training they may require in the future.

Assess staff’s training needs on a regular basis and make sure it’s relevant to the work they perform.

Under current UK health and safety legislation, every employee should be made aware of the hazards that exist in the workplace and the associated risks, the control measures that are in place and what they need to do in case of an emergency.

Particular care should be taken in the training of new staff, anyone changing job roles within the company, disabled or vulnerable staff to ensure they receive the appropriate level of health and safety information and training.

Write your health and safety policy

So you’ve identified the hazards in your workplace, compiled a risk assessment and provided information and training to your employees on health and safety.

Now it’s time to write your company’s health and safety policy, which is a requirement under UK legislation (the health and safety at work act) for every business that has employees.

The purpose of a health and safety policy is to describe how you will manage health and safety in your business, and it should clearly state who will do what, when and how.

Once a health and safety policy is written, it should be shared with all employees for their information.

So what exactly should you include in your health and safety policy in order to comply with UK legislation?

Firstly, you will need to make a general statement outlining your policy on health and safety at work and your company’s aims on the subject.

Secondly, you will need to make a list of all those persons responsible for health and safety in the workplace and their job roles/positions.

Last but not least, your health and safety policy should detail the current arrangements you have in place to help achieve your company’s aims under current UK legislation.

Examples could be a copy of your risk assessment, and details of staff training.

Need an idea of what your health and safety policy should look like? Then take a look at this simple health and safety policy.

health and safety policy statement UK
Every business needs a Health and safety policy statement as park of UK legislation

Provide a healthy & safe working environment

As a requirement of UK health and safety legislation, every employer is required to provide clean, well maintained welfare facilities and a safe and healthy working environment for all who work for them.

More specifically, when it comes to welfare facilities, this means giving workers access to adequate toilet and washroom facilities, supplying clean drinking water and providing rest areas for breaks and eating meals.

The workplace has to be clean, spacious and comfortable with good lighting and ventilation with a comfortable working temperature and plenty of space to work.

Working equipment has to be maintained to a good standard and be safe to use, and all working areas must be free from trip and slip hazards and totally clear from obstruction.

First aid at work UK regulations

Another big component of the health and safety regulations in the United Kingdom is first aid at work, and it applies to all workplaces.

The health and safety legislation states that all UK employers must have first aid procedures in place for anyone who falls ill or who may become injured whilst at work.

Every workplace must have a fully stocked first aid kit, at least one appointed person who will make arrangements for first aid, and have the necessary information provided to all their employees about first aid and procedures.

Depending upon your company’s individual needs, you will need to make an assessment on the contents that need to be included in your first aid kit. This will depend on the number of staff employed and the nature of the business.

Most businesses where work activities are classed as low risk (for example office work) will require the basic first aid kit that contains sterile bandages, plasters, safety pins, eye pads and disposable gloves.

You may decide to train one or more of your employees in first aid by sending them onto a first aid training course.

It’s up to you if you decide to send anyone on a first aid course and how many staff receive this training, but any first aid assessment will help you to determine your needs.

It’s important that any first-aiders receive regular refresher training to keep their skills and knowledge up to date in order to meet the requirements under health and safety legislation in the UK.

Check out our online first aid courses here at UK Online Training which are great as a refresher course for those who have completed full first aid training within the last 12 months.

First aid at work is essential training for the work place
Businesses must appoint at least one person to make arrangements for first aid in the workplace under UK health and safety legislation

Employer’s liability insurance

Does your business have the right insurance?

When it comes to health and safety legislation in the UK, it’s highly advisable that you take out employers liability insurance to cover you in the event that an employee becomes ill or gets injured while working for you, as they could make a claim against you.

Having Employers liability insurance in place will help you to pay any compensation claims, so it’s most definitely something that should be at the top of your list of things to do and is very easy to set up through insurance companies and brokers.

Reporting of accidents & record keeping

It’s extremely important, and actually a requirement under the RIDDOR regulations (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations), that you report any near misses, work related diseases and certain more serious workplace injuries to the HSE.

Additionally, the law states that you must keep accident records if you employ more than 10 employees.

By keeping accident records, it will enable you to be better at managing risks in the workplace as you’ll be able to see and identify patterns of accidents and injuries from the records you keep.

Although, bear in mind that as with all paperwork that involves people’s personal details, make sure that records are kept in a safe and secure place.

Health and safety legislation UK poster

The UK health and safety laws poster explains all about British health and safety legislation and also lists what workers and their employers should do in accordance with the law.

Employers must comply with the law and either display this poster where employees can see it, or alternatively, give their employees a copy of a leaflet explaining the health and safety laws and UK legislation.

health and safety legislation and law poster by the HSE
A UK health and safety law poster should ideally be displayed for employees to see as part of UK legislation

What is the main piece of UK health and safety legislation?

Within workplace health and safety legislation in the UK, there are two types of law that apply – criminal law and civil law.

Under criminal law, the HSE or local authority have the power to take action against you if you fail to protect your workers or anyone else from injury or illness.

The main piece of legislation in UK health and safety law is the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA). 

Under HSWA, there only has to be a risk of harm in order for an offence to have been committed, meaning you can be prosecuted even if nobody has actually been harmed.

In order to fully comply with UK health and safety legislation, you have to be seen to be taking practical steps in managing and controlling any risks in your workplace rather than just keeping paperwork, as that is simply not enough in the eyes of the law.

Under civil law, the injured person has the right to claim compensation against you, the employer. Hence the reason why it’s so important to have employers liability insurance.

Online training health and safety courses

Here at UK Online Training, we have a wide range of online training courses aimed at health and safety in the workplace.

These online training courses are great for training staff and will help you to meet your duties under the UK health and safety legislation.

However, you must also have a health and safety policy in place for your business along with safety procedures and practical hands-on training for employees.

Here is a list of the main topics of our online health and safety courses here at UK Online Training:-


Need help in finding the right First Aid at Work online training course? Then complete the contact form on this page our give us a call on 0161 763 3727 and we’ll be happy to assist.


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