What are my employer’s legal duties?

All employees are entitled to work in a safe environment where risks to health and safety are minimal. Under health and safety laws in the UK, the primary responsibility for health and safety in the workplace lies with the employer; this being one your employer’s legal duties.

Employers are responsible for health and safety in the workplace, but it is accepted that employers cannot remove all risks and hazards which may occur there. Employers must take all reasonable steps, however, to protect not only their employees but also any other individuals who may be affected by their business. On a construction site, for example, the employer would not only be responsible for ensuring that all workers are protected from anything that could cause them harm, but also that members of the public are not harmed by falling objects and other hazards occurring as a result of the work.

Employers must assess the risks in the workplace and as part of this assessment they must address all risks that could potentially cause harm.

Employers must provide information to their employees about the risks in the workplace and how they can minimise these risks. All employees should receive training on health and safety in the workplace. Employers must also consult their employees on issues of health and safety. This can be done either directly with the employees, or via a trade union or an appointed safety representative. The employer must produce a written policy laying out the commitment of the business to health and safety. In this document the employer must give details of how health and safety is to be organised, who will do the organising and provide information on the arrangements for implementing health and safety rules. This information would include procedures and rules which should be followed by all employees.

The employer is required to consult with their employees on changes which could affect health and safety at work, such as the introduction of new machinery, changes in procedures or the introduction of new technology. Consultation is also required for the planning of health and safety training, arrangements for appointing individuals to assist in complying with health and safety laws, and information that is given to employees about the risks in the workplace and the measures that need to be taken to minimise the risk.

Employers must display an approved statutory poster on health and safety, outlining the responsibilities of the employer and employees and the necessity of risk assessments. Contact details for the staff that are responsible for health and safety should also be given, as well as for any trade union representative and the relevant authority for enforcing health and safety. The poster should be displayed in a prominent location or, if this is not possible, they must provide their employees with a copy of an approved leaflet which outlines the UK’s health and safety law. The employer must have first-aid arrangements to deal with illnesses or accidents at work.

Different workplaces may have additional regulations covering them, for example, construction sites, agriculture and nuclear installations.

At Accident Advice Helpline, our experts can provide advice on your employer’s legal obligations and what you can do if you feel that your employer has not fulfilled those obligations.

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