The importance of health and safety in the workplace

Health and safety sometimes portray an air of negativity when mentioned, but it has been put in place to protect people’s lives and make sure everyone gets to go home at the end of the day. Workplace health and safety is about promoting a positive health and safety culture. Not only is adhering to health and safety legislation a legal requirement, it’s also morally right. The financial burden from not complying can be reflected by the turnover of the employer and the culpability of the health and safety transgression.


The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

The Health and Safety at Work etc. act is detailed legislation that came into force in 1974. It is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in Great Britain. It’s sometimes referred to as HASWA, the HSW Act or HASAWA. It sets out the general duties which:

  • Employers have towards employees and members of the public,
  • Employees have to themselves and to each other,
  • Certain self-employed individuals have towards themselves and others.
  • It gives powers to inspectors under sections 20-25 of the Act.

You can read the full act here, but I’d grab a coffee as it’s long. It is also worth noting that there is other legislation to be aware of, such as The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

In short, the act is there to make sure all employers provide a safe working environment and look out for the safety of their employees, visitors, customers and anyone they deal with.

Employers’ responsibilities

As an employer you will have specific duties of care under the act. These include the following sections within the act;

  • Section 2: This places a general duty of care on employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all employees at work.
  • Section 3: This provides that employers every self-employed person, so far as is reasonably practicable, ensure the health and safety of any non-employees who may be affected by the conduct of their undertaking. This includes members of the public, contractors, and visitors.

Employees responsibilities

Although the employer must ensure employees have a safe place to work, employees also have a responsibility under the act under the following section:

  • Section 7: This states that employees have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety. They must also protect the health and safety of other workers and anybody else who may be affected by their actions or omissions at work.

Directors and senior managers

Under section 37 of the act, if you’re a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate it states that you may be prosecuted if it is found that an offence committed by the company was committed with your consent, your connivance, or was attributed to your neglect.

Is your business compliant with the Health and Safety legislation?

To be broadly compliant with the HSWA and relevant secondary legislation, a business should be able to answer the following questions:

  1. Is your business meeting its responsibilities for protecting both employees and members of the public?
  2. Do employees understand that they also have roles under the HSWA?
  3. Have employees undergone sufficient training for health and safety in order to carry out their roles?
  4. Are items and materials properly and safely stored and handled?
  5. Do you have a competent person within your business that manages your health and safety?
  6. Is equipment well-maintained and do you keep maintenance records?
  7. Do you provide safe systems of work, policies, procedures method statements?
  8. Do you have a health and safety policy (it needs to be written down if the business has 5 employees or more)?
  9. Is the business carrying out suitable and sufficient assessments of the risks in the workplace?
  10. Are you providing adequate welfare provision?

If you aren’t sure or haven’t answered yes to all the above then you might want to give one of our team members a call on 01527 571611, or email them here, to see how we can help you get compliant with health and safety, and make sure that you have the correct policies and training in place.