What are the health and safety laws at work?
All employees are entitled to work in an environment where their health and safety is protected and controlled. Under health and safety law, this responsibility lies with employers. So, why is it important, how does it affect you and what can be done if you feel that your employer is putting you at risk?
Each year, 30 million working days are lost in the UK as a direct result of work-related stress and personal injury. It's no surprise then that health and safety is top of the agenda for improving business practices.
Under the Health and Safety Act (1974), employers who are in control of workplaces have a duty to ensure the health and safety of all their employees and anyone who uses the premises “so far as is reasonably practicable”.
A ‘workplace' is legally defined as a factory, shop, office, hospital, school, hotel, entertainment venue, private road and path on industrial estates and business complexes in addition to temporary worksites such as a building site.
Despite the good intentions of legislation, the fact still remains that every five seconds a worker in the EU is involved in a work-related accident. And, more alarming is the statistic that one worker dies in an accident every two hours, according to an EU report.
The following is a - non exhaustive - list summarizes some of the areas that fall within the remit of health and safety law:
- cleanliness and waste materials
- computer usage
So, if you think that you are being put into a position whereby you or your colleagues' health and safety is jeopardised, here's what you can do about it.
Speak to your line manager or, if you prefer, your company's health and safety office or trade union representative.
Alternatively, if you feel that your concerns have fallen on deaf ears and you can't get anyone in your company to take appropriate action, then you can get confidential help and advice by contacting the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The HSE is the health and safety regulator in the UK. Workers who exercise their health and safety statutory rights are protected from detrimental action by their employer which means that your employer cannot discriminate or discipline you for reporting your concerns.
Your responsibility as an employee
The emergence of a compensation culture, fuelled by a plethora of legal firms that promise ‘no-win, no-fee', has seen the number of personal injury claims continue to rise over the last ten years.
But, contrary to common perception, as employees you have a duty and responsibility for your health and safety and the wellbeing of your colleagues. Workers may be liable to prosecution if they interfere with anything provided in the interests of health and safety. Consequently, health and safety legislation requires both employers and employees to cooperate.