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Employment law guide

Health and safety

The common law has established that an employer has a general duty to take reasonable care to avoid injury, disease or death occurring to their employees at work. 

In particular employers must:-

If an employer fails in his common law duty the injured employee has a civil law right of action to sue his employer for compensation as long as he can show that there has been negligence.

However employers also face a raft of statutory duties imposed by Parliament.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 provides that every employer has a duty to ensure the health and safety and well being of all his employees.  His statutory duty (under Section 2(2) of the 1974 Act) is to provide:-

The effect of the 1974 Act and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and other regulations is that:

All employers of more than five people must prepare (and as appropriate revise) a written policy statement setting out their general health and safety policy, and the organisation and arrangements for carrying out this policy. The employer MUST also bring the statement and revisions of it to the attention of employees.

Every employer must carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of risks to health and safety of his employees (and persons not in his employ but who would otherwise be at risk).  Employers of more than five people must record the significant findings of his risk assessments and any group of his employees identified as being especially at risk. 

Every employer must make and give effect to arrangements for effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of preventative and protective measures, which if there is more than five employees, must be recorded in writing.

There must be written procedures for serious and imminent danger and dangerous areas setting out emergency procedures. 

Employees must be provided with comprehensive and relevant information on risks to their health.
An employer has an absolute duty to take into account human capabilities of his employees when entrusting them with tasks.

There is a duty to ensure that there is adequate health and safety training when employees are recruited and repeated in the future when risks to them are increased by new responsibilities, new work or equipment, new techniques or new systems.

All employees to be given information about Health and Safety as prescribed in the Act, and for posters to be put up in places of work. An alternative to display of a poster is to hand each individual employee an approved leaflet.

The poster must be displayed in a readable condition at a place that is reasonably accessible to employees at work and positioned so that it is easily seen and read. An employer must clearly and indelibly insert in the appropriate space on the poster the name and address of the enforcing authority for the premises and the address of the employment medical advisory service for the area where the premises are situated.

An employer carrying on business in Great Britain (i.e. in England, Wales and Scotland) to insure with an authorised insurer against liability for bodily injury or disease sustained by his employees arising out of and in the course of their employment in Great Britain in that business.

Accidents must be reported.

An employer must so far as is reasonably practicable avoid the need for employees to undertake any manual handling operations involving a risk of injury.

An employer must provide such equipment and facilities as are adequate for enabling first aid to be rendered to his employees if they are either injured at work or become ill at work. He must also tell his employees what arrangements have been made for first aid including the location of equipment, facilities and personnel.

All employers have duties under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.

There are many other specific regulations applying to workplaces and specific industries and hazards.