Your legal health and safety obligations

There's a lot of cynicism about health and safety and how strict it is, but the bottom line is that if you fail to follow regulations, you risk having your business shut down, being fined, or even given a prison sentence. So, over-the-top as you may feel health and safety is, it's well worth being on the right side of the red tape. This guide introduces you to your legal obligations as an employer:

  • The risk assessment
  • The policy
  • The workplace
  • The accident book

The risk assessment

You need to carry out a risk assessment on your workplace - and if you have five or more employees, you need to write your assessment down. The assessment covers things that may cause injury or harm to someone: hazards such as steps or heights that may cause falls, hazardous substances, high noise levels, fire, moving vehicles, and so on. You need to evaluate who could be harmed and how and implement any additional precautions needed.

  • Carry out a risk assessment, write it down if you have five or more employees, record findings
  • Work out what could cause harm, who to and how
  • Implement any necessary precautions

The policy

A written policy is a legal requirement if you employ five or more people. But you need to know how you're handling safety anyway, even if that's not in writing. The policy lays out the potential workplace hazards, how you will manage them and what the employees' responsibilities are for managing risks. With five or more employees, you must put up a sign in your workplace explaining the policy or hand out a leaflet of it to all employees.

  • If you have five or more employees, you need a written policy which should be on a wall or handed out as a leaflet
  • The policy lays out how you and they will manage risks

The workplace

You must provide a basic level of comfort, clean and hygienic toilets and sanitation facilities, ensure that employees use IT and other equipment safely and meet standard fire safety standards. You need to put up no smoking signs at your premises’ entrance, signs marking any hazards and stick up your certificate of employers' liability insurance. You also need a first aid kit and representative to check it.

  • Ensure basic levels of hygiene and comfort, safe use of equipment and fire safety standards
  • Stick up relevant signs and get a first aid kit

The accident book

You need to record all accidents that happen in your workplace, using computer or book. Include the person and contact details, date and time, where and how it happened and what injury they sustained, and if and when you reported it. You report serious accidents (disease, gas incident, over three-day injury or worse) by calling the Health & Safety Executive Incident Contact Centre on 0845 300 9923. Keep all records for three years.

  • Record all accidents and details in a book or on computer
  • Report serious accidents to the authorities
  • Keep all records for three years

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