Health and safety at work
Health and safety at work is about sensibly managing risks in the workplace to protect your workers and your business. Although preventing harm is the number one goal, maintaining a safe work environment has many other benefits, from reducing staff absence to boosting your employer brand.
Health and safety is also governed by specific legislation, meaning that as an employer, health and safety needs to be a top priority.
Here we take a look at health and safety in the UK, including the legislation you need to follow and the benefits of maintaining a safe place to work.
Why is health and safety important in the workplace?
Health and safety is central to running a business in the UK today. Whether you have one employee or thousands, ensuring they are safe is one of your key responsibilities. Focusing on health and safety also brings many other benefits to your business.
5 reasons health and safety is important in the workplace
- Moral obligation – keeping employees safe is the right thing to do
- Legislation – in many countries, including the UK, there is specific health and safety legislation that you must follow
- Cost savings – If you do not adhere to H&S legislation the cost of non-compliance can be significant, from the impact of staff absences, large fines and even imprisonment
- Improve productivity – studies show that companies who prioritise health and safety and staff wellbeing have more a motivated and productive workforce
- Boost your employer brand – more and more of us are becoming conscious of working with ethical brands. Focusing on health and safety can aid your recruitment, sales, partnership and investment efforts.
Whilst all businesses must adhere to health and safety legislation, there is no one size fits all when it comes to keeping staff safe.
This is because the risks faced by employees can be vastly different depending on their work environment. For example, someone working within the NHS may be more likely to face violence and aggression, whereas those working in construction can be at higher risk of workplace injuries.
It is important that you consider the specific risks faced by your employees in order to put the most appropriate mitigations in place.
Workplace health and safety regulations
All employers must adhere to specific health and safety legislation. In the UK, the main legislation to follow is the Workplace Health and Safety Regulations 1992 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
However, the history of workplace health and safety in the UK dates back to well before the 1970’s – in fact, our modern day legislation has its roots as far back as the industrial revolution, with improvements to workers’ rights and safety being made throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Despite workplaces at the time being run by men, many of the developments that paved the way for the legislation we have today were spearheaded by women, including Dame Adelaide Anderson who was appointed the first Lady Inspector of Factories in 1897.
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 sets out the general health and safety duties of employers and employees. It was a landmark piece of legislation, removing the focus from specific industries to goals and outcomes for all workers. It forms the basis of health and safety regulations throughout the world.
The Act requires that risks to health and safety are controlled, putting the responsibility on both employers and employees to keep everyone safe. This includes putting in place precautions to reduce the risk of harm and ensuring that staff are properly trained.
Find out more about your duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
Workplace health and safety regulations 1992
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 cover a wide range of basic health, safety and welfare issues. The regulations apply to most workplaces, except those involving construction work on construction sites, those in or on a ship, or those below ground at a mine. The regulations cover issues concerning the work environment, such as ventilation, cleanliness, work stations and available conveniences.
Workplace health and safety regulations 1999
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 make it clearer for employers to understand what they are required to do in order to manage health and safety under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
The main requirements of the Workplace Health and Safety Regulations 1999 are that employers carry out risk assessments, implement safety procedures, appoint competent people and invest in appropriate training.
Risk assessments are a key requirement of all workplaces and, if you have more than five employees, your findings must be documented. You can find out more about conducting risk assessments, including a free risk assessment template, in our Risk Assessment Guide.
Do you have a safety culture at work?
To fully embed safe work practices it is important to foster a positive safety culture. A positive safety culture is created when a business has the full buy-in of both managers and staff when it comes to keeping everyone safe.
There are some common misconceptions around health and safety that you may have to break through (yes, an accident can happen in any workplace) however the benefits of a positive safety culture outweigh any challenges you may face.
Creating a culture where employees actively participate in health and safety will help you to meet your duty of care and provide peace of mind. It also means that new employees are more likely to adopt your safe working practices, so it is self-sustaining.
A strong health and safety culture achieves more than just lower injury rates. Transforrming negative attitudes towards health and safety has many benefits. If a workplace feels safe and secure, productivity and employee wellbeing are also more likely to be high.
A positive safety culture also means creating an environment where employees feel able to share any concerns they may have, without fear of getting into trouble.
This can be achieved by embedding health and safety into everything you do as a business and actively involving employees in the process, through regular meetings, briefings and training.
Providing appropriate safety equipment and panic alarms also shows that you take health and safety seriously. Sharing experiences, both positive and negative, can also help to create an open and inclusive attitude toward staff safety.
Many organisations also choose to make health and safety part of their on-boarding process.
Who is responsible for workplace health and safety?
Both employer and employee have responsibilities when it comes to health and safety.
Employers must adhere to all health and safety legislation and remove or mitigate, as far as is reasonably practicable, any hazards that an employee may face.
Employees who have been properly trained and given the appropriate safety equipment for their role also have a responsibility to adhere to safety procedures and carry out their duties safely.
Just as an employer who fails to comply with legislation can face legal consequences, so too can an employee who is found to have breached their companies safety requirements.
Failure to adhere to health and safety regulations can have significant consequences. Employees can be subject to court cases and fines if they are found to have breached health and safety rules. Employers can even face life in prison if they are found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter.
How important is health and safety training?
Health and safety training is essential for ensuring that staff are able to carry out their duties safely. Training needs to be provided to managers as well as employees.
However, it is not enough to simply provide training – you should also be ensuring that your employees understand and adhere to it.
Our recent Lone Worker Landscape Report revealed that managers tend to over-estimate the effectiveness of health and safety training. Worryingly, our research suggests that 1 in 5 workers are not aware of their companies’ policies.
It is important to use a range of communication methods and revisit safety messaging regularly, to ensure that all staff are aware of safety procedures and their responsibility to keep everyone safe.
How do lone worker apps improve health and safety?
When it comes to adhering to health and safety legislation, specific job roles and working environments need to be considered to ensure that appropriate procedures and equipment have been put in place.
Whether an employee works alone for all, or part, of their working day should be taken into account, as additional measures may be required to ensure that they are safe.
A lone worker is anyone working without the direct and immediate support of supervisors or colleagues.
Lone workers can be particularly vulnerable at work because any risks are faced alone. Research shows that 68% of organisations have had a lone worker incident in the past 3 years.
One of the ways that employers can meet their duty of care to lone working employees is through the use of a specialist lone worker solution.
Lone worker solutions are specialist products that are designed to monitor staff safety and give employees a quick way to signal for help in an emergency. Not only do they help employers to meet their duty of care, they also ensure staff feel protected and cared for whilst at work.
StaySafe is an app-based solution that is used by employers to protect their staff whilst they work alone. The app provides lone workers with a panic button and a range of alerts so they can summon help immediately – to their exact location – in an emergency.
When implemented as part of your health and safety procedures, StaySafe can help to keep staff safe and help you to fulfil your legal requirements.
Find out more about how StaySafe can help you meet your duty of care
“Helen has worked within the lone worker industry for nearly a decade. During that time she has written extensively about health and safety, risk, legislation, and lone working – including the Lone Worker Landscape Report.
Helen’s background is in marketing for start-ups and SMEs, where she has enjoyed working as part of the leadership team to grow the business. Outside of work, Helen is a mum of two and loves to drink wine in peace.”
Find out more about StaySafe solutions
Lone Worker App
Our intuitive app allows employees to check in safely following a lone working session and raise an alert in an emergency.