There are a lot of business managers who worry about their legal requirements concerning health and safety. The facts are these – you need to follow the relevant regulations and laws, or potentially face prosecution if things go wrong. Interestingly, there are actually no legal requirements relating to how youactually manage the health and safety of your business, as long as it done in a way that does not negatively affect your employees.
What Health and Safety Laws Actually Require
The primary law which governs health and safety is the Health and Safety Act of 1974. The act states that the business must limit risk ‘as far as is reasonably possible’. This means that measures taken by the business need to be reasonable in scope. The time and cost of risk management measure should be in proportion to the actual risk.
For more explicit guidelines on what needs to be done, the Management of Health and Safety at Work ActRegulations of 1999 should be your first port of call. These regulations outline all aspects of health and safety management that are mandatory for UK businesses.
One of the most important requirements to be undertaken by the business is risk assessment. If your business has more than five staff, these assessments must be documented and stored for inspection. You can find guidelines which provide five steps to effective risk assessment.
With the advent of the EU and the UK’s inclusion, certain health and safety laws and regulations have been imported from Europe. There are a number of proposals set forth by the EU that require all member states to adhere to certain regulations. However, the regulations already embedded in UK law actually cover most of the EU regulations.
The Regulations Explained
The obligation that a business has to its employees is explained under Section 2 of the Health and Safety Act (1974). In broad terms it outlines that you have to ensure – as far as is practicable – that the people working for you are safeguarded whilst in your care. The legal requirements of Health and Safety are further extended for businesses operating non-domestic premises. This is detailed under Section 4 of the act and emphasises that you also have a duty to protect people not directly employed by your business. These may be customers, sub-contractors or other visitors to your premises.
Understanding the HSE regulations is difficult. There are four key terms used in its guidance that your business needs to be aware of, which are as follows:
1. Premises: Any place of work, even if it is outdoors
2. Work: As performed by anyone working for you, even if they’re self-employed
3. Domestic Premises: This primarily relates to places of work like hotels, kitchens and care/nursing homes
4. Disabled Person: This relates to the definition provided in Section 1 of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995)
Whilst it is beyond the scope of this document to cover every aspect of legislation under this heading, you need to ensure that the working environment you provide for your employees is conducive to their health. Below are some areas your business will be required to legally address
1. Ventilation. It’s important that you provide sufficient ventilation in your premises. Any air taken in to the building from an outside source must be clean and circulate properly through the building.
2. Lighting. Poor illumination can have a detrimental effect on your employees’ health. Whilst overhead lighting is acceptable, you may also need to consider whether more localised lighting is suitable.
Temperature. The HSE’s health and safety guide defines the ideal temperature for a workplace to be between 13 °C-16 °C – although this will depend on the type of work your employees are doing.
If you are still unsure of your legal requirements, it is possible to get help from the Health and Safety Executive office of the UK. You should contact them if you have any questions about what you need to do, and how it must be done.