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The consequences of failing in health and safety

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA 1974) sets out the basic health and safety duties of a company, its directors, managers and employees. It also acts as the framework for other health and safety regulations, including the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (the regulations). In terms of consequences, employers risk huge fines and even imprisonment if they fail to implement the correct health and safety duties.

The range of legal obligations placed on employers with respect to health and safety is extensive. The particular obligations which apply in any given case will depend on the activities carried out by the company, the extent of the risks posed by these activities and other factors such as the number of employees. The main obligations imposed by the HWSA 1974 and the regulations include the following:

  • Employers are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of their employees and those that are affected by their activities so far as reasonably practicable (sections 2 and 3, HSWA 1974)
  • An employer must assess and review the work-related risks faced by its employees and by others affected by the company’s activities. This risk assessment must be “sufficient and suitable” (regulation 3, the regulations)
  • An employer must make and give effect to appropriate arrangements for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures (regulation 5, the regulations)
  • An employer must audit the adequacy of these procedures (regulation 3, the regulations)
  • One or more competent persons must be appointed to implement the measures needed to comply with health and safety law (regulation 7, the regulations)
  • An employer must provide its employees with understandable and relevant information and training on the risks they face and the preventive and protective measures to control those risks (regulations 10 and 13 of the Regulations and the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996)

Employers with over five employees must also:

  • Produce a written health and safety policy
  • Describe the arrangements for putting the policy into practice
  • Bring the policy and any revision of it to the attention of employees
  • Revise the policy whenever appropriate (section 2 and section 3, HSWA 1974; regulation 2, Employers ‘ Health and Safety Policy Statements (Exception) Regulations 1975)
  • Record appropriate arrangements for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures (regulation 5, the regulations)
  • Record the significant findings of risk assessments and any group of employees identified by it as especially at risk (regulation 3, the regulations)

Despite the moans and groans of those employers who bemoan the health and safety red tape, it is clear that a safer working environment is better for everyone including those with an eye on company profits. Not only are the prescribed fines for breach a real deterrent, but employees can pursue a claim in a tribunal if they think that their employer has not provided them with a safe place of work.

If you are worried about whether or not your agricultural business complies with health and safety legislation and would like to talk to someone,  please get in contact with us today.

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