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Health and safety – your responsibilities

How to stay within the law

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, every employer has a duty to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees are protected. A breach of this duty of care, by either the employer or the employee could result in a civil case, or a criminal prosecution by the HSE inspector. As the Health and Safety at Work Act is written in general terms only, the more detailed specific requirements are detailed in various other regulations, which are approved by Parliament and have the force of law.

Some of the most frequently used EU regulations are as follows:

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992

The management regulations require every employer to make a suitable and sufficient assessment:

  • Firstly of the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed while at work.
  • Secondly of the risks to the health and safety of persons not in their employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by them.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992

These regulations address common factors in workplace accidents such as the maintenance of the workplace, ventilation, the temperature of indoor workplaces, lighting, cleaning and waste materials, room dimensions and space, and the condition of floors and traffic routes.

Floors and traffic routes, should have no holes, slopes or be uneven or slippery, and must have effective means of drainage where necessary. They must also be free from obstructions.

The workplace regulations also cover falls or falling objects, washing facilities, escalators and doors and gates.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

The regulations specify that so far as is reasonably practicable, each employer must avoid the need for his employees to undertake any manual handling operations at work which involve a risk of their being injured. Where it is not reasonably practicable to avoid the need for manual handling, a suitable risk assessment must be carried out of all manual handling operations.

The risk assessment in question must take into account the nature of the task, and the nature of the load being handled, the working environment and also the capabilities of the individual.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998

These specify that work equipment must be suitable, maintained in an efficient state, in inefficient working order and in good repair, that proper information, instructions and training are provided to employees, and that there is protection against specified risks to health and safety.

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992

These regulations state that every employer shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to employees who may be exposed to risk to their health and safety while at work.

Such personal protective equipment that is provided must be assessed as being suitable and must be properly maintained. The employer must also take all reasonable steps to ensure that any personal protective equipment provided to employees is properly used.

All employers employing five or more employees must also have a written health and safety policy, which must be brought to the notice of all employees.

The employer must also ensure that the health and safety of persons other than employees who use the premises are protected.

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