In response to strong economic headwinds, the government and the HSE face pressure from businesses to ease regulatory burdens and adapt the legal requirements that govern health and safety in the workplace.
This has manifested in proposals to reduce the number of health and safety inspections required at low-risk workplaces.
But regardless of the direction of health and safety policy, certain minimum legal requirements remain, and compliance has benefi ts for both employers and their staff.
The primary legislation governing health and safety is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which aims to secure the health, safety and welfare of people at work.
Legislation imposes a duty on every employer to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all its employees by:
- Providing and maintaining plant and systems of work which are safe and without risks to health.
- Making arrangements to ensure the safe use, handling, storage and transport of articles and substances.
- Providing such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure the health and safety at work of employees.
- Providing a working environment and maintaining any place of work under the employer’s control in a condition that is safe and without risk.
Most workplace policies recognise that looking after employee health and safety contributes to a healthy, productive and happy workforce, and may have secondary benefi ts, such as controlling insurance premiums.
Protecting employee safety, health and welfare should also enable employers to maintain a close relationship with their staff, and satisfy customers and suppliers that the business is well-run and effectively managed.
Finally, a major driver for protecting employee health and safety is, of course, the necessity to achieve legal compliance.
Lukas Rootman is a partner at Nabarro