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Frequently Asked Questions ....

Listed below are some of the most common questions we get asked.  If you still need advice on any Health & Safety or Human Resources matter, please just get in touch with us on 0330 088 4352 or alternatively, please feel free to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. us.

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What are an employer's health and safety duties to its employees?

At common law, an employer is under a duty to take reasonable care for the health and safety of its employees, with this duty covering both physical and mental injuries. The employer must take positive steps to ensure the safety of its employees in the light of the knowledge that it either has or ought to have. As the duty is owed to individual employees, circumstances that make any employee more vulnerable to injury must be taken into consideration in caring for that employee. Under s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, an employer must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of its employees. This duty extends to matters including the maintenance of plant; systems of work; the arrangements for the use, handling, storage and transport of articles and substances; information and training; and access routes.

Do employees themselves have any duties with regard to health and safety?

Yes. Employees have a criminal law duty to take reasonable care to avoid injury either to themselves or to anyone else through their work activities, and to cooperate with their employer and others in meeting statutory requirements. In addition, they must not interfere with or misuse anything provided for the purpose of protecting their health and safety. Employees are also required under common law to take steps to look after themselves.

What is the significance of the words "so far as is reasonably practicable" with regard to health and safety legislation?

Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 contains the criminal law duty on an employer to ensure, "so far as is reasonably practicable", the health, safety and welfare at work of its employees. These words offer a duty holder a statutory defence in the event of an alleged breach. A statutory duty subject to a defence of reasonable practicability is satisfied if the employer can show that the cost of any further preventive steps to make the situation safer would be grossly disproportionate to the further benefit from their introduction. It will be a question of fact in each case as to whether or not the employer has complied with that qualified standard.

What are employers' duties with regard to having a general health and safety policy statement?

Under s.2(3) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, employers with five or more employees are obliged to prepare a written statement of their general policy with respect to the health and safety at work of their employees, and the arrangements in place for carrying out the policy. This written policy statement must be brought to the attention of employees.

The Health and Safety Executive advises that a general health and safety policy statement should accurately reflect the values and beliefs of the company, demonstrate a genuine commitment to action, and be supported through the individual behaviour and management practices of senior managers and directors. The policy should be concerned with positive health promotion as well as the prevention of ill health and accidents, and have an integrated approach that extends to non-employees, off-site risks, environmental pollution and product and service safety.

What arrangements are required for the effective delivery of a health and safety policy?

Although an employer's policy will set out the direction the employer intends to take with regard to health and safety, in order to implement and develop it, it will have to have in place structures and processes to establish and maintain management control; promote cooperation at both individual and group level; ensure effective communication of information; and secure the competence of employees.

What are an employer's obligations with regard to competent workers?

Under reg.7 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3242), an employer is required to appoint one or more competent persons to assist in compliance with the main obligations of health, safety and fire law. Competent persons should be appointed from the employer's staff or, where this is not possible, from external sources.

How to identify and manage health and safety risks


  • Be aware of the general duty on employers to carry out risk assessments in relation to their employees and others who may be affected by their activities.
  • Be aware that there are also specific requirements in relation to particular hazards and in relation to the health and safety of particular groups of workers.
  • Ensure that anyone carrying out risk assessments on behalf of the organisation has sufficient training and knowledge to do so.
  • Ensure that the risk assessment covers any risks to groups of workers outside the core workforce.
  • Consult managers, supervisors, specialists and employees and their representatives about the risks involved in their work and the measures necessary to prevent or control them.
  • When carrying out the risk assessment, address what actually happens in the workplace and not only what should happen.
  • Apply the principles of prevention when implementing measures to reduce any risks identified.
  • Ensure that the results of the risk assessment are acted on.
  • Prepare a written plan of action identifying who will take action and by when.
  • Ensure that the risk assessment is reviewed as appropriate.

What kind of hazards might exist in a workplace?

Potential hazards include extremes of temperature, pressure and humidity; hazardous chemicals; hazardous micro-organisms; noise; radiation; sprains, strains and pains; stress; and vibration.

Are employers required to keep records of injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences?

Yes. Employers must keep a record of any injury resulting from a work-related accident that results in the worker being incapacitated for more than three days (not counting the day of the accident). (The employer must follow the reporting procedure under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/1471) (RIDDOR) if the worker's incapacitation lasts for more than seven days.)
Employers must also keep a record of a work-related accident that results in the death of any person; a worker suffering certain injuries that are specified under RIDDOR; and injuries to someone who is not at work (eg a customer) that result in him or her being taken directly to hospital for treatment. Records must also be kept of certain occupational diseases and dangerous occurrences as specified under RIDDOR.

Such records must include particulars of:

  • the date, time and place of the incident;
  • the name and occupation (or status if he or she is not a person at work) of the person involved;
  • details of the injury;
  • a brief description of the circumstances in which the incident occurred; and
  • the date and method of reporting of the incident (unless the record relates to an "over-three-day injury" that is not reportable).
  • the employer must keep the records for at least three years.

How should an employer respond to an over-seven-day injury?

Where an employee is unable to do his or her normal work for more than seven days as a result of an injury caused by a work-related accident, the employer must send a report to the enforcing authority as soon as is practicable and, in any event, within 15 days of the accident. The seven days do not include the day of the accident but include any days that would not have been working days. The employer should report the injury by completing and submitting the relevant online form on the Health and Safety Executive's website. The period of incapacity that triggers the employer's duty to report an accident increased from over three days to over seven days on 6 April 2012. Employers must still keep a record of any accident that results in an employee being incapacitated for more than three days. Different reporting rules apply if the injury is a specified injury under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/1471) (RIDDOR); results from a dangerous occurrence within the meaning set out in RIDDOR; or is an injury to a person not at work (eg a member of the public) that results in him or her being taken directly to hospital for treatment. The employer must notify the relevant enforcing authority of such an injury by the quickest practicable means and must submit a report of the incident within 10 days at the latest.

Safety Training

  • Employers owe a common law and implied contractual duty to their employees to take reasonable care for their health, safety and welfare at work. That duty extends to providing appropriate information, instruction and training.
  • Employees who are injured in the course of their employment may sue their employer for damages arising out of a negligent failure to provide appropriate safety training.
  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 imposes a duty on all employers to provide their employees with such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of their employees.
  • That duty is reinforced by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3242), and by related health, safety and hygiene legislation.