An Employer’s Legal Obligations To Ensure Health, Safety And Welfare And Prevent Injury At Work

There are a raft of UK health and safety laws and regulations in respect of workplaces in order to cover many different types of working environments such as offices, shops, factories, workshops, warehouses, department stores, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, schools and so on which to name some.

As a result health and safety laws that regulate and control safety in the workplace can be very complex and specialised as very specific legislation exists to regulate particular enterprises such as road building work, dock work, construction work and work involving exposure to hazardous substances such as explosives, radiation, toxic fumes, etc.

However, there are general health and safety obligations that pervades and apply across all industries which sets the basic threshold of expected health and safety irrespective of the type of enterprise, which I have summarized below.

Every employer has a common law, statutory and implied contractual duty to take reasonable care for the health, safety and welfare at work of each and every employee.

The common law duty extends not just to employees but also to visitors, customers, contractors and members of the public who have lawful reason to be on the premises. If a person is injured whilst on the premises as a result of negligence by the employer, that person may have a right to sue for damages.
This common law duty is reinforced by further duties imposed on employers by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 along with other legislation that is specifically relevant to the employer’s enterprise. These laws apply both civil and criminal liability for breaches of health and safety.

Under the Occupier’s Liability Act 1957 and 1984, persons occupying premises have a legal duty to do all they reasonably can to ensure that all lawful visitors to those premises will be reasonably safe in using the premises for which they were invited or permitted to be on the premises.

A poster entitled “Health and Safety Law: What You Should Know” must be clearly displayed in every workplace, with the address of the nearest health and safety enforcing authority and of the nearest office of the Employment Medical Advisory Service (EMAS).

An employer has a duty to appoint one or more “competent persons” to advise on the requirements of health and safety legislation and steps to be taken. Section 7 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 acknowledges that in small businesses that person can be the employer himself.

Every employer is also under a duty to consultant with their staff directly on matters likely to affect their health and safety at work. This person must have a sound knowledge of all relevant health and safety legislation with the required training and experience to properly carry out this function. This person is the ear of the employer to advise him of the employer’s health and safety responsibilities.

Regardless of the size of the employer’s business undertaking, there is a duty to carry out “suitable and sufficient assessment” of the risk to which employees are exposed as they carry out their employment responsibilities. The risk assessments must also identify risks confronted by people lawfully on or in the immediate vicinity of the employer’s premises. The primary purpose of the risk assessments is to enable the employer to identify risks and the measures needed to comply with the various pertinent health and safety laws and regulations. If there are 5 or more employees, the employer has a duty to maintain a written record of the findings of the assessment.

Injuries, accidents or “near misses” must be thoroughly investigated and major injuries and dangerous occurrences must be reported to the relevant authority without delay in according with The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR).

For effective health and safety in the workplace it is imperative that all employees receive the necessary information, training, instruction and supervision for the work that the employee is engaged in.

If there employer fails to comply with any of the general health and safety obligations and as a direct result injury occurs in the workplace, the employer may be held responsible to the injured person and liable to pay compensation for injury, loss and damage.

If you’ve had an accident and injured at work and have legal insurance cover, whether its part of your car insurance or some other policy of insurance, be aware that you are not legally obliged to go with your insurer’s choice of solicitor who they select from their panel of approved solicitors.

In any type of accident claim it’s important that you get the help and advice that you need from a specialist in the area of law that is particular to your injury complaint.