Health and safety at work- a company’s responsibilities

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You have a responsibility for the health and safety of your employees whilst they are working for you, whether this is your company, a partnership of which you are a partner or your self employed business.  This is set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and other legislation, some of which only relates to a specific industry.  The Health and Safety Executive provide help in finding the laws that apply to your business which you should be fully aware of.

You must provide a safe and healthy environment for you, all your employees (including homeworkers, part-time and temporary workers), contractors and visitors and take their welfare needs into account. This applies to all workplaces. However, employees do also have a responsibility for their own health and safety whilst at work.

Health and safety management is not a necessary evil but part of your ongoing business management. Whilst protecting people from harm it, at the same time, should help the future success of your business.

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Please note that this article has not been updated to reflect any additional requirements on employers as a result of Covid 19 (coronavirus).

Your health and safety responsibilities

As an employer, it is your responsibility to:

  • provide up to date information that is easy to understand and follow so workers, contractors and visitors are aware of the hazards and risks they face, the measures in place to control the risks and how to follow emergency procedures;
  • consult all your employees, in good time, on health and safety matters – directly or through union health and safety representatives or other elected representatives.  Any such representatives should be adequately trained;
  • provide clear instructions so everyone working for you knows what they are expected to do;
  • provide free tailored health and safety training that is up to date, relevant and effective;
  • provide an appropriate level of supervision, especially for new, inexperienced and young workers;
  • carry out regular health and safety risk assessments to protect the health and safety at work of yourself, your workers and any one else who may be affected by what you do (if you have five or more employees the risk assessment should be documented) – this applies to all premises where work is undertaken, all work activities and everyone at work, including self-employed and business owners working from home;
  • have a health and safety policy and, if you have five or more employees, have it documented setting out your commitment to managing health and safety,  what you want to achieve, who is responsible for specific actions and the detail of what you are going to do to achieve those aims;
  • display the health and safety law poster or provide each worker with a copy of the approved leaflet or equivalent pocket card;
  • have a suitably stocked first aid box, an appointed person to take charge of first-aid arrangements and notices telling your employees where they can find them and as your company grows, look again at your need for qualified first aiders;
  • provide safety signs if there is a significant risk that cannot be avoided or controlled in any other way, provided they help reduce the risk;
  • provide adequate staff facilities, including toilets, washing facilities and access to refreshments;
  • appoint someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to help you meet your health and safety duties – this could be you, one of your employees or a third party;
  • have emergency signs and fully understood, recorded and rehearsed emergency plans;
  • report immediately, follow up with a written notification within ten days to the relevant authorities (HSE or your local authority) and keep records of:
    • work-related deaths;
    • certain types of major injuries to people at work listed in The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR), such as fractures, amputations and other injuries that require admittance to hospital for more than 24 hours;
    • injuries to people at work where they are unable to work for more than seven consecutive days – these need to be reported to the enforcing authority within fifteen days;
    • cases of industrial diseases listed in RIDDOR;
    • certain near-miss major accidents;
    • injuries to a person who is not at work, such as a member of the public, which are caused by an accident at work and which result in the person being taken to hospital from the site for treatment; and
  • record all injuries to people at work where they are unable to work for more than three consecutive days and other accidents in your accident book maintained under DWP regulations.

The impact of the above should be proportionate to the health and safety risks that your employees are exposed to. For example, if your business is involved with hazardous substances or heavy plant and machinery then you are more likely to need to take more action than for someone running a small business from an office.

Your employees’ health and safety responsibilities

Employees have a duty to take care of their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by their actions at work. They must also co-operate with employers and co-workers to help everyone meet their legal requirements. They need to:

  • take care of their own health and safety and that of others;
  • co-operate with you to help you comply with health and safety legislation;
  • follow any instructions or health and safety training you provide;
  • tell you about any work situations that present a serious and imminent risk; and
  • let you know about any other failings they identify in your health and safety arrangements.

Enforcement of health and safety rules

Health and safety laws are enforced by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors or by officers from your local authority. Inspectors have the right of entry to your premises as well as the right to talk to employees and safety representatives and exercise powers to help them fulfil their role. An inspector’s role is to:

  • investigate when accidents have happened or a complaint is made;
  • require you to take action to control risks properly;
  • take enforcement action in relation to any non-compliance, ranging from advice on stopping dangerous work activities to potentially taking prosecutions where people are put at serious risk; and
  • provide advice and guidance to help you comply with the law and avoid injuries and ill health at work.

HSE operates a Fee for Intervention cost recovery scheme. If you break health and safety laws, HSE may recover its costs from you by charging a fee for the time and effort spent on helping you to put the matter right.

In addition to health and safety laws a business with employees needs employers’ liability insurance in addition to other general business insurance cover.


This article was last updated on 10 June 2019 and was first published on 22 April 2013.  It has not been updated for issues around Covid 19 applicable to employers.

All companies are required to maintain up to date company records. Inform Direct is the perfect tool to help you easily keep everything up to date.

Article Comments

  1. Chizz Magoog says:

    help full

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