At a fundamental level, employers are required to provide:
• safe and suitable plant and equipment
• safe systems of work, with adequate supervision and instruction
• safe premises, including safe access and egress
• safe and competent employees
The basis of British health and safety law is the Health and Safety at Work Act, which is known as primary legislation and sets out the general duties which employers have towards employees and members of the public etc., and employees have to themselves and to each other.
Many (but not all) of these duties are qualified by the principle of ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’. This means an employer does not have to take measures to avoid or reduce the risk if they are technically impossible or if the time, trouble or cost of the measures would be grossly disproportionate to the risk.
What the law requires is what good management and common sense would lead employers to do anyway, that is, to look at what the risks are and take sensible measures to tackle them.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations is a type of secondary legislation and generally makes more explicit what employers are required to do to manage health and safety.
The main requirement for employers is to carry out a risk assessment. Employers with five or more employees need to record the significant findings of the risk assessment.
Besides carrying out a risk assessment, employers also need to:
- plan for implementing the health and safety measures identified as necessary by the risk assessment;
- appoint competent people (often themselves or company colleagues) to help them to implement the arrangements;
- set up emergency procedures;
- provide clear information and training to employees;
- work together with other employers sharing the same workplace.
Other secondary legislation requires action in response to particular hazards (e.g. the Control of Asbestos Regulations), or in industries where hazards are particularly high (e.g., the Control Of Major Accident Hazards Regulations).