Unit NG1: Management of health and safety
Unit NGC 2: Risk Assessment

The most important legal duties for employers and workers

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

The key objectives of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) are securing the health, safety and welfare of people at work and protecting people other than those at work against risks to their health and safety arising out of work activities.

HASAWA applies to all types of work activity and situations and imposes duties on everyone concerned with work and workplace activities, including employers, the self-employed and employees; manufacturers, designers and suppliers; and people in control of premises.
Duties are imposed on individuals and organisations, be they corporations, companies, charities, or government departments and are intended to encourage employers and employees to take a wide-ranging view of their roles and responsibilities.

Section 2: General duties of employers to their employees

Every employer must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees, including:

  • the provision and maintenance of plant and systems of work that are safe and without risks to health
  • arrangements for ensuring health and safety with the use, handling, storage and transport of articles and substances
  • the provision of information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure, the health and safety at work of employees
  • maintenance of any workplace, under his control, in a healthy and safe condition, including any means of access and egress
  • the provision and maintenance of a safe and healthy working environment with adequate facilities and arrangements for the welfare of employees at work

The employer has an absolute duty to prepare and revise, as necessary, a written statement of his general policy with respect to the health and safety at work of his employees and the organisation and arrangements for carrying out the policy. The statement and any revision of it has to be brought to the notice of all of employees.

The employer has an absolute duty to consult safety representatives regarding arrangements for enabling employee cooperation in promoting and developing and checking measures to ensure the health and safety at work of the employees.

If requested by safety representatives, to establish a safety committee to keep under review the measures taken to ensure the health and safety at work of his employees.


A visitor being shown around a site by a supervisor slipped on a patch of oil on a warehouse floor whilst taking a short cut.  

The visitor was admitted to hospital where they remained for several days. 

Section 3: Duties of employers and self-employed to others

Every employer and self-employed person must conduct their business, ensuring so far as is reasonably practicable that non-employees are not harmed.

Self-employed persons are also required to protect themselves from risks to their own health and safety.

Section 4: Duty of person in control of premises for health and safety of non-employees

Any person who has control of work premises must take all reasonable measures to ensure that all are safe. This includes the means of access or egress or any plant or substance in the premises.

The duty overlaps with the general duties of sections 2 and 3, which would take precedence when there is clearly an employer’s duty. The aim is to place a duty on whoever has the power to remedy a particular source of hazard, even if they are not an employer.

Examples of the application of this duty include:

  • Coin-operated launderettes used by the public. If no one is employed, there will be no employer’s duty. However, the business owner would have some control of the premises and therefore have a section 4 duty.
  • A maintenance contractor servicing a lift in the common parts of a multi-occupied office block. If there is no apparent employer’s duty, the landlord or site agent would have duties under this section.


Associated Octel Ltd maintained its plant and equipment during factory shutdown each year. In 1990, this work was carried out by Resin Glass Products (RGP) Ltd as contractors. An employee of RGP cleaning the inside of a tank was badly burned because of an explosion inside the tank.

Section 6: Duties of designers, manufacturers, importers, suppliers and installers

This section places a general obligation on anyone in the supply chain, so far as reasonably practicable, for when articles or substances for use at work are being used, set, cleaned or maintained. This obligation includes providing information and instructions on safe use, including any subsequent revisions to that information and testing/examination necessary to ensure compliance.

Any person who designs, manufactures, imports, or supplies any article or substance for use at work has duties to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • that the article or substance is safe and without risks to health when properly used
  • any necessary research and testing or examination of the article or substance is properly undertaken
  • adequate information is provided to ensure its safe use

Erectors and installers must ensure that nothing about how an article intended for work is erected or installed make it unsafe or a risk to health when properly used. Examples:

  • new and second-hand articles designed for use at work, whether for sale or hire
  • items which though capable of domestic use are designed to be also used at work
  • all substances, including micro-organisms, which are supplied to workplaces

Section 7: General Duties of Employees at Work

Every employee has the following two duties while at work:

  • to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work
  • to co-operate with his employer so far as is necessary to enable the employer to comply with his own duties


An employee used a forklift truck with an attached potato box to lift an apprentice electrician 4 meters high to carry out electrical repairs. Due to the instability of the potato box, the apprentice fell and punctured a lung and fractured his ribs.

In this case, the HSE prosecuted the employee and not the employer.

Section 8: Duty to not interfere with or misuse anything provided in the interests of health, safety or welfare

No person shall intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything provided in the interests of health, safety or welfare, whether for the protection of employees or other persons. This duty is imposed on all people, including children, at work or members of the public.

Section 9: Duty of employer not to levy a charge on employees

The employer cannot charge an employee (or allow an employee to be charged) for anything done or provided to comply with health and safety legislation.

Section 36: Offences Due to Fault of Another

If ‘A’ commits an offence because of an act or default of ‘B’, then ‘B’ may also be charged and convicted of the offence as well as, or instead of ‘A’.

‘A’ and ‘B’ can refer to individuals or organisations.

The section also allows Crown servants, such as civil servants, to be prosecuted even though the Crown as employer is immune from prosecution.

A H&S Consultant prepared a risk assessment for a client on a woodworking machine. An employee of his client injured his hand whilst operating this machine.

The machine’s risk assessment fell significantly short of the standards required, contributing to the accident. It failed to identify the danger of the machine snatching at pieces of wood. In addition, although the H&S Consultant had many years of experience, he was not familiar with this type of machinery.

Section 37: Offences by a Body Corporate

Where an offence committed by a body corporate (e.g. an organisation) is proved to have been committed with the

  • consent (permission for something to happen )
  • connivance (willingness to allow or be secretly involved in an immoral or illegal activity)
  • neglect (fail to care properly and can include a situation where they ought to have been aware of certain circumstances but were not)

…of any director, manager, secretary or similar officer, that person may also be charged and convicted of the offence.


A workman fell to his death while repairing a road bridge over a river. Mr. Armour was the Director of Roads for the Regional Council. He had failed to produce a written safety policy for his department that the council had required him to.


An assistant general manager of a bookshop owned by his employers was prosecuted for a section 37 breach when serious fire safety issues were discovered on a day when he was in charge of the shop, while the general manager was away on holiday.

In this video your course tutor breaks down an open book exam question on the Health and Safety at Work Act…

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

The ‘Management Regs.’ introduced the general requirement for risk assessment into the UK. Where other more specific legislation requires a risk assessment (e.g. CoSHH – Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations) complying with the specific requirement will also fulfil the general requirement.

Click on the image to download a PDF of the Regs., the ACoP and Guidance.

Regulation 3: Risk assessment

Places an absolute duty (i.e. shall) on the employer (or self-employed person) to make a ‘suitable and sufficient’ assessment of the risks. This must cover risks that employees are exposed to at work and persons not in his employment are exposed to, arising out of or in connection with the work.


  • A specific risk assessment of the risks to young persons
  • Review and revision of risk assessments if the workplace changes significantly or if there are any grounds to believe it is no longer valid
  • Employers with five or more employees to keep a record of the significant findings of the risk assessment

Regulation 4: Principles of prevention

Employers need to introduce preventive and protective measures to control the risks identified by the risk assessment (aka: risk control measures). A set of principles to be followed in identifying the appropriate measures are set out below. Employers should use these to direct their approach to identifying and implementing control measures.

  • if possible, avoid a risk altogether, e.g. do the work differently, taking care not to introduce new hazards;
  • evaluate risks that cannot be avoided by carrying out a risk assessment;
  • combat risks at source, rather than taking downstream measures;
  • adapt work to the individual (consulting those who will be affected when designing workplaces, selecting work and personal protective equipment and drawing up working and safety procedures and production methods). Aim to alleviate monotonous work and paced working at a predetermined rate, and increase the control individuals have over work they are responsible for;
  • take advantage of technological and technical progress, which often offers opportunities for improving working methods and making them safer;
  • implement risk prevention measures as part of a coherent policy and approach. This will progressively reduce those risks that cannot be prevented or avoided. It will also consider the way work is organised, the working conditions, the environment and any relevant social factors. Health and safety policy statements required under section 2 of HASAWA should be prepared and applied by reference to these principles;
  • give priority to those measures which protect the whole workplace and everyone who works there, and so provide the most significant benefit (i.e. give collective protective measures priority over individual measures);
  • ensure that workers, whether employees or self-employed, understand what they must do;
  • A positive health and safety culture should exist within an organisation. That means the avoidance, prevention and reduction of risks at work must be accepted as part of the organisation’s approach and attitude to all its activities. It should be recognised at all levels of the organisation, from junior to senior management.


A business has had issues with people slipping on entryway steps when they get wet. They deal with the issue by placing a warning sign near the steps. This approach is not in line with the principles of prevention. Can you suggest an alternative?

Regulation 5: Health and safety arrangements

The employer must implement appropriate management controls to ensure the effective planningorganisationcontrolmonitoring and review of all risk control measures.

This regulation basically makes it law that employers put some kind of sensible Health and Safety Management System (HSMS) in place. Element 2 of this course covers how to do this.


There is another piece of legislation that we’ve already covered that also pushes employers towards putting in place a Health & Safety Management System. However, it doesn’t use those exact words but instead talks about ‘organisation and arrangements’.

Can you identify the legislation?

Regulation 7: Health and safety assistance

Employers must have access to competent help complying with health and safety laws. In particular, they need skilled help in devising and applying risk controls unless they are capable of undertaking the measures without assistance.

When seeking competent assistance, employers should look to appoint one or more of their employees with the necessary means to provide the health and safety assistance required.

What if there is no relevant competent worker in the organisation? In that case, the employer should enlist an external service or person. In some circumstances, a combination of internal and external competence might be appropriate.


What qualities do you think someone needs to be considered competent?

Regulation 8: Procedures for serious and imminent danger and for danger areas

The employer is required to:

  • implement appropriate procedures to be followed in the event of serious and imminent danger arising in the workplace
  • appoint enough competent persons to implement evacuation procedures
  • restrict access to ‘danger areas’ to those employees who have received adequate instruction and training regarding the risks and controls

Regulation 10: Information for employees

The employer should provide employees with relevant, comprehensible information regarding:

  • the risks to their health and safety
  • the preventive and protective measures
  • the procedures for serious and imminent danger, and danger areas including the identity of the competent persons appointed for evacuation procedures
  • the risks created by another employer while sharing a workplace

Where a child is employed the information is provided to the parent or guardian.

Regulation 13: Capabilities and training

An employee’s capabilities for health and safety shall be considered before the employer allocates them work.

Employees are to be provided with adequate health and safety training:

  • on recruitment
  • on being exposed to new or increased risks because of changes of responsibility; work equipment; new technology; or new systems of work

Regulation 14: Employees’ duties

All employees are required to:

  • use any machinery, equipment, dangerous substance, transport equipment, means of production or safety device according to health and safety training and instruction
  • inform the employer (or employee with specific responsibility) of any work situation which represents a serious and immediate danger to health and safety and of any shortcomings in the protection arrangements for health and safety


There is another piece of legislation that we’ve already covered that places legal duties on employees.

Can you identify the legislation?

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I have completed this lesson and answered the questions but it doesn’t give me the option to mark as complete?

Stockwell Safety (Administrator) 19th April 2023 at 6:57 am

Please complete the assessment – Exam Question: Obligations of employers to workers (NGC)

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