Health and Safety – Not Your Problem?

Health and Safety – Not Your Problem?

Perhaps you work in a big company that employs a dedicated Health and Safety Officer, or you might work in a nice ‘safe’ office or shop environment…perhaps you are boss of a small firm with just a few employees helping you out. So, Health and Safety is really nothing for you to concern yourself with, right? Employers of five or more employees must have written Health and Safety policies and these must be brought to the attention of all employees, and every single person engaged in commercial business has a responsibility for Health and Safety.


Under The Health and Safety at Work Act (HASAWA), if something goes wrong causing injury it could be you who is held personally responsible if it occurred as a result of something you did or failed to do. In addition to the common-law duty of care that all employees have to ‘exercise reasonable skill and care’ to prevent accidents, the HASAWA enshrines in legislation an obligation on you to take reasonable care for the health and safety of yourself and other people in the workplace. Part of this is a duty to co-operate fully to enable your employer to fulfil its legal duties with regard to H&S.

If you are an employee and you breach your duties with regard to H&S, you may be dismissed by your employer and may be personally liable to prosecution.

What is Health and Safety at Work?

Every employer and every person engaged in commercial business has a duty to protect people in the workplace. This means protecting employees of course, but it also extends to visitors, such as customers and contractors. In order to do this, the responsible person must ensure Risk Assessments are carried out to identify the risks involved in an activity and record the measures they have taken to minimise these risks. For example, in a factory setting there are often large machines that can trap limbs if not used correctly. The Risk Assessment would identify the potential hazard of the machine and detail the safety features such as guards and emergency isolator switches that can turn the machine off quickly should an accident occur. It would detail the maintenance cycle for the machine and the level of training required for the machine operator. The assessment would also detail what safety clothing must be worn when using the machine. “Safety goggles, gloves, overalls, and strong boots have to be considered as fundamental requirements while working around such dangerous machines to avoid any unfortunate accident” according to Unigloves.

Activities in a factory that would require Risk Assessment include:

  • Plant and equipment
  • Manual handling of articles
  • Maintenance of the work area
  • Vehicles, such as fork lift trucks
  • Storage of hazardous goods

What are the Costs of Health and Safety?

Inevitably, there are costs associated with Health and Safety and these are easily calculated based upon the time spent and the money committed to improving safety at a workplace.

  • The Risk Assessment – larger companies may employ a specialist H&S Manager, smaller organisations will appoint a manager to carry them out. Risk Assessment templates readily available as is training.
  • Planning of work, with safety in mind, ensuring people are aware of what is going on around them while they work
  • Maintenance of machinery and plant
  • Training of employees in safety features and ensuring they are used
  • Provision of appropriate specialist work wears like military hazmat suits and air-purifying respirators.

What is harder to cost is the benefit…who can say whether that old, run down machine that was replaced would have caused an accident?

H&S should be seen as a way of ensuring the smooth-running of a business, minimising sickness levels and taking away the costs of repairing and renewing the problems that might have been caused by accidents.

Health and Safety Inspectors – The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has overall responsibility for enforcing the provisions of the Act and its inspectors have a range of powers to do this:

  • They can enter your place of work
  • They can inspect plant, systems in use, storage facilities, safety equipment etc and check the correct signage is in use
  • They can close down a machine or area they deem to be unsafe, pending repairs or renewal and they may issue prohibition notices
  • They can seize dangerous items and substances
  • They can question and take statements from managers, owners and employees

So Health and Safety is More Than Just ‘Red Tape’?

Well, it is an obligation that did not exist before the Act was passed in 1974 but it was designed and adopted into legislation as a way of tackling a real problem in workplaces across the United Kingdom and it has been hugely successful. In 1974 there were 651 deaths in the workplace. In 2014, there were 92 deaths. Workplace injuries too fell in the same period from 336,000 to 77,000. Everyone should be able to work in a safe environment that is not detrimental to their health and attention to Health and Safety issues contributes to this massively.

Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer in the construction industry – working alongside a selection of companies including company supplies merchant superstore JP Supplies, who were consulted over the information contained in this piece.

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