According to the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the body responsible for enforcing health and safety management across businesses and organisations, it is the responsibility of an employer to protect the personal safety of employees. There is specific health and safety legislation in the UK which states the responsibilities of employers concerning personal safety in the UK explicitly, such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. It is important that employers have the correct training and knowledge of these pieces of legislations to exercise duties properly.
What specific legislative responsibilities does UK legislation place upon employers regarding personal safety?
As a general rule of thumb, an employer is expected to ensure information is circulated around the workplace to every single employee regarding what hazards and risks are present within the workplace and how these risks have been reduced. The workplace will naturally have aspects which could create danger for an employee, but if the employee is assured that these risks have been taken care of through careful planning and risk assessment measures conducted by the employer, then the workplace will naturally become a safer and more pleasant environment to work in.
Employers must consult their employees on all issues related to personal safety. They should do this through appointing a personal safety representative within the workplace; this individual can either be chosen by the employees or appointed by a trade union.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
A vital aspect of the Health and Safety at Work Act requires an employer to conduct a risk assessment of the workplace. Within this risk assessment the employer is expected to identify all hazards in the workplace, the scale of risk associated with the hazard, implementation of a control measure to protect employees against the hazard and to ensure that this risk assessment is continually updated to ensure it is in alignment with the workplace.
There is the legislative responsibility to communicate the risk assessment and control measures implemented around the workplace, ensuring all employees are aware of the findings. If an employer does not conform with the legislative responsibilities stated in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 then the Health and Safety Executive, and the Health and Safety Commission, which are the regulatory bodies responsible for enforcing legislative responsibilities stated in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, have the ability to enforce criminal sanctions such as imprisonment for up to two years and unlimited fines.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations is a complementary piece of legislation to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This enforces the following legislative responsibilities, which are certainly similar to the previous 1974 piece of legislation:
A risk assessment must be conducted by the employer.
Prevention policy to protect personal safety in the workplace must be created and communicated around the workplace.
A health and safety team must be created from the pool of employees, responsible for conducting and enforcing the health and safety measures.
Employees must be aware that they have the right to report the employer to the Health and Safety Executive if they are not complying with legislative responsibilities.
If an employer does not comply with the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, the Health and Safety Executive as well as local authorities have the enforcement powers to imprison guilty individuals for negligence and to impose fines of up to £20,000.
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance for employers to comply with UK health and safety legislation to ensure personal safety in the workplace is maintained. If not, the repercussions can be serious and therefore legislative responsibility of employers must not be handled lightly.