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What are my health and safety responsibilities as an employer?

As an employer you have a 'duty of care' to look after the health, safety and welfare of your employees while they are at work, as set out in the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

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If you are the proprietor or managing director of a company, you are ultimately responsible for the health and safety in all aspects of the business. Responsibility for managing health and safety may be delegated to a competent person in the business, but primary responsibility still lies with the owner or partners of a business. 

First off, you must ensure that the business has access to suitable competent health and safety advice (the Forum can provide this at very competitive rates, call us on 01565 626001 to find out more).

You may have added responsibilities, depending on your area of work, but the following is a basic list of the requirements all employers must fulfil, regardless of the level of risk in your business.

Providing a safe workplace

You have a duty to provide a workplace that is safe and healthy to work in.

This should include:

  • properly maintained premises and work equipment 
  • good ventilation a reasonable working temperature (usually at least 16°C, or 13°C for strenuous work) 
  • lighting suitable for the work being carried out 
  • suitable workstations and seating a clean workplace with appropriate waste containers 
  • toilets and hand basins, with soap and towels or a hand-dryer drinking water. 

Risk assessments

All employers should carry out a risk assessment to spot possible health and safety hazards. This should be carried out by a 'competent person' charged with health and safety responsibilities.

If you employ five or more people, you must also keep an official record of what the assessment finds and how you plan to deal with the risks. 

Health and safety policy

Business with five or more employees (including owners and partners) should also have a written health and safety policy, which is reviewed on an annual basis. This should document how you will manage health and safety in your business and who is responsible for what. 

Members can download free risk assessments and health and safety policy templates or call our helpline for further advice. 

Consulting with employees 

You must consult employees about anything that could significantly affect their health and safety at work, including:

  • changes such as new or different procedures, types of work, equipment or ways of working 
  • arrangements for getting competent people (those with enough experience, knowledge and training) to help you satisfy health and safety laws 
  • the best way to share information that must be given to employees 
  • planning health and safety training 
  • the health and safety consequences of introducing new technology, e.g. computer controlled or semi-automatic machinery.

Get the correct insurance

All employers, regardless of the size of their business, must have employer's liability insurance. Not only does this cover the costs of damages and legal fees for employees who are injured or made ill at work through the fault of their employer, but it is a legal requirement. 

Report incidents

Under RIDDOR legislation, you must report and keep a record of certain injuries, incidents and cases of work-related disease. Find out more about what you need to report and when under RIDDOR

First aid 

Under the Health and Safety Regulations 1981, an employer is required to provide equipment and facilities that are adequate and appropriate for enabling first aid to be given to employees if they are injured or become ill at work. 

You should also provide a suitable number of persons able to give first aid to employees, who have undergone proper training and have such qualifications approved by the Health and Safety Executive, including annual refresher training. 

Health and safety law poster

Employers have a legal duty to display the health and safety law poster in a prominent position in each workplace or provide each worker with a copy of the equivalent leaflet outlining health and safety laws. The law poster costs £9.00-£13.20 and can be purchased online here or from Health and Safety Books on 01787 881 165. 

The Forum can provide you with health and safety expertise that you can rely on to ensure you’re not only legally compliant but also providing a safe working environment for your employees and customers.