Health and Safety – Who is responsible, and what you need to be aware of

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Every business in the UK has a legal, financial and moral obligation to ensure the safety of its staff while they are at work. As such, it means that we are all responsible for an aspect of health and safety in the workplace, whether you are part of the management team, a director or a support team member.

But, who is responsible for what?

The Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA), allocates specific responsibilities for employers, employees and other groups of people, which they are expected to follow and can be found within the following sections.

Section 2: Duty of an Employer for Employees

As an employer you are expected to ‘ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and wellbeing of all of your employees at work’. What this means for you, is that you are required to be proportionate, and put in more time, effort and money in dealing with something that poses a great risk to your staff, compared to something would pose a lesser risk.

The responsibility of an employer will also require you to provide; safe equipment and systems of work, safe use, handling, storage and transport of equipment and substances, any required information, instruction, training and supervision, a safe place of work (including safe access and egress in and out of the building), and a safe work environment with adequate welfare facilities.

Legally, employers must also have a written health and safety policy in place (for organisations that have more than five member of staff), and also have access to a competent person – someone with the relevant knowledge, skills and experience to ensure that you are meeting your health and safety obligations, so make sure that you have both in place.

Section 3: Duty of an Employer for Non-Employees

An employer’s responsibilities for the safety of other people that are not employees is detailed in section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act, stating that organisations should ‘conduct business in a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in its employment are not exposed to risks to their health or safety’. This includes members of the public, visitors, contractors and also trespassers.

Key to note is that because visitors, contractors and members of the public will not be as aware of your health and safety policy’s as your employees are, you are expected to have a greater duty of care over these individuals than you would for your employees – potential penalties are likely to be greater, whether they be financial or legal.

Section 4: Duty of Landlords for those using their premises

Section 4 defines the duty of occupiers of premises, e.g. commercial landlords, managers of serviced office accommodation, and maintenance contractors, towards people who use those premises for work. Those premises, and the means of entry and exit, must be, as far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.

What this means is that as a landlord or somebody that provides serviced offices, you have a duty to make sure that the premises are safe. Key to this is making sure that the premises themselves, in addition to the access and exit routes are free from risks that could cause harm.

Sections 7 and 8: Duty of Employees for Themselves and Others

Under section 7 of the HSWA, employees have a duty whilst at work to:

  • Take reasonable care for the health and safety of themselves, and of any other persons who may be affected by his/her acts or omissions at work; and
  • Co-operate with employers or other persons so far as is necessary to enable them to perform their duties or requirements under the HSWA.

This means that employees need to take responsibility for their own safety, and it is not completely down to the employer. However, employers need to make sure that their employees have been provided with the necessary training and materials for them to carry out their jobs safely, and be able to voice health and safety concerns should they have any.

Section 8 further outlines how employees are required not to interfere or misuse things that have been provided for their safety e.g. personal protective equipment (PPE).

Section 37 – Duty of Directors and Leaders

Section 37 of the HSWA is a specific section that illustrates that ‘Where an offence, committed by a body corporate, is proven to have been committed with the consent, connivance or neglect of any director, manager or similar person then she/he, as well as the body corporate, shall be guilty of that offence and liable to be proceeded against.’

This emphasises that Directors and Leaders have a vital role in setting the tone of their organisation’s safety culture, and that they must set a clear and positive example and provide the resources and support for a progressive safety culture to develop.

So who is responsible for health and safety within your organisation? Can you clearly outline the roles and responsibilities that everyone has? Do you have a policy in place that details this? If not, or if you have and would like to know if it is fit-for-purpose, we can help.

How Pennington Choices can help…

Our expert and qualified Health and Safety Consultants can work with you to produce a Health and Safety policy as either a one-off piece of work, or as part of a longer-term level of support.

How can I get in touch to find out more?

If you would like to find out more about our occupational health and safety services you can do so by getting in touch with our experts today. This can be done either via email or by calling 0800 883 0334.

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