How do I make sure I comply with health and safety law?

Businesses should make every effort to ensure successful compliance, not least because dealing with the consequences can be far more costly than getting things right in the first place.  Prevention is better than cure.

Basic measures include:

  • Ensuring that an appropriate insurance policy is in place;
  • Having a comprehensive written health and safety policy, which employees can access readily;
  • Having a full programme of health and safety training as appropriate, including coverage during induction programmes;
  • Conducting necessary risk assessments, which are themselves subject to ongoing review

Fire Precautions

The key piece of legislation here is a Statutory Instrument, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

General fire precautions include (but are not restricted to):

  • Reducing the risk of fire on the premises, as well as the risk of fire spreading;
  • Ensuring that there is a means of escape;
  • Having arrangements for the training and instruction of employees.
  • Regional fire brigades are responsible for leading prosecutions when the regulations are breached. For other premises (including building sites), government departments such as the Health and Safety Executive will take the lead.

Alteration Notices, Prohibition Notices and Enforcement Notices can be issued prior to the commencement of any prosecution.

Offences are derived from the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. They include:

  • Failures to comply with the regulations which then place one or more people at risk of death or serious injury in the event of a fire;
  • Failures to comply with enforcement and alteration notices;
  • Keeping/creating false records.

Employee welfare

Employers must do what is ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect the health, safety and welfare of both employees and (according to the HSE) ‘other people who may be affected by their business.’ Whilst you cannot be expected to eradicate all possible risks, there is a clear expectation that you will manage them appropriately.

The fundamental priority needs to be the continual assessment of risk.

Accident reporting

The RIDDOR – Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013- set out a number of requirements. Specific types of injury to workers must be reported, and include:

  • Fractures and crush injuries;
  • Burn injuries;
  • Any injury which is likely to lead to a permanent loss of sight, or reduction in sight, in one or both eyes;
  • Fatal accidents must be reported regardless of whether the victim was a worker or not.

Reports must be made within 10 days of the incident. They can be submitted using the HSE’s online forms, or by contacting them directly.

Can I appeal against HSE enforcement notices?

You have a right to appeal against an enforcement notice if you believe that it has been issued unfairly. The content can be appealed, as can the fact that the notice has been issued in the first place.

The notice will provide a timescale for an appeal.

What’s the worst case scenario when health and safety falls short in the work place?

The impact can be far reaching for those directly affected by the incident. Thankfully, most injuries are short term but it is important to note that these can be lasting. It is not entirely uncommon for fatalities to result from failings in relation to health and safety within the workplace.

From a business perspective, it is worth investing the time to prevent such shortfalls. Investigations and prosecutions may be costly, lengthy, and detrimental to the business’ reputation. Unlimited fines and lengthy prison sentences are not unknown. A business can also find itself responsible for prosecution costs, which are substantial.

If an incident has resulted in a fatality, there may be an inquest. The company will form part of the inquest, thereby utilising time, resources and attracting potentially adverse publicity.