It is actually the Law for employers to establish good Health & Safety procedures within the workplace.
The Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974 is the main piece of Government Legislation relating to health and safety in the workplace.
Not complying with the law can result in fines or imprisonment, which can be imposed on companies, management or individuals.
The Act covers everyone in a workplace environment.
The main purpose of the Act is to encourage good standards of Health & Safety and is to prevent people from being hurt or injured at work.
The Act places a duty on employers to implement safe working procedures.
Staff / Employees also have a duty of care to take care of themselves and other people.
They must co-operate with their employer and not misuse, damage or interfere with anything provided for health and safety purposes.
What do the Health and Safety Regulations cover?
They cover a wide range of health and safety issues, such as: workplaces, the management of health and safety and specific areas.
These are covered by specific regulations and include:
- Work Equipment
- Manual Handling
- First Aid
- Safety Signs
- Hazardous Substances
- Personal Protective Equipment
Help Guides such as Codes of Practice (COP) and Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPS) are available to help, give guidance and explain the Acts and Regulations in more detail.
What Information Must an Employer Provide?
Employers must make employees aware of general requirements, duties and training requirements under Health & Safety Law.
They must also provide details of the local enforcing authorities and the Employment Medical Advisory Service.
This is usually written on the “Health and Safety at Work Act” poster and must be displayed so all staff can view it.
Employers also have a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees and anyone else who may visit the building.
This will include:
- A safe system of work
- A written Health & Safety Policy for more than 5 employees
- Safe plant and equipment
- Safe way in and out of the premises
A Management System is vital to monitor and maintain health and safety standards in the workplace.
Under these Regulations, employers must carry out and implement:
- Risk assessments
- Planning, controlling, monitoring and reviewing of Health & Safety measures in the workplace
- Appointing competent person to manage the system
- Establish emergency procedures
- Provide Health & Safety information and training
Manufacturers & Suppliers of Equipment
These groups also have a responsibility for the design, construction, testing and installation of their work. For example a new cooker, fridge, dishwasher etc.
They must provide instructions or training for the safe use of a machine.
Please note people who are Self Employed are also covered by the Act and have a duty not to put other people at risk by the way they work.
Who Enforces the Law?
The Health and Safety at Work Act is enforced by 2 main groups:
- Environmental Health Officers (EHO)
- Health and Safety Executive Inspectors (HSE)
Environmental Health Officers deal with health and safety issues in shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants, takeaways, etc.
These are mainly customer facing outlets within the catering, leisure and service sector industry.
A Health and Safety Executive will deal with more complex work areas such as food production factories.
Depending on the type of food premises you work in, it will be either the EHO or the HSE who will be enforcing the legislation.
The Power of an Enforcement Office
They have a wide range of powers and are there to make sure businesses are complying with legislation.
Ultimately they are there to ensure that the workplace is safe to work in. They are there to promote awareness and safe working practices.
An Enforcement Officer has the powers to:
- Enter workplace premises at any reasonable time
- Conduct an investigation and examination of workplace activities
- Dismantle or confiscate equipment
- Gather evidence including photographs
- Examine and remove documentation
- Questions any member of staff and In cases of imminent danger seize, destroy or make harmless any equipment or substance.
There are 2 types of notice:
This will be for a minor infringement and it will detail what is wrong, what should be put right and the timescale in which it has to be done.
If a company ignores the notice, the actions and potential fines will increase.
This is used if they consider the workplace is dangerous and there is a serious risk of personal injury.
The notice will require a particular activity to stop immediately e.g. use of a dangerous or faulty machine.
The notice can even result in premises being closed down if there is an immanent risk to safety.
Prosecution & Fines
Enforcement Officers have powers to prosecute; especially if there is a blatant disregard for health and safety or a serious breach of legislation.
Any person, employee, employer, owner or company can be prosecuted.
Contravention of the Health and Safety at Work Act can result in unlimited fines or imprisonment for up to 2 years or both.
By the end of this chapter you should have developed the following understanding and insights:
- An awareness of the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974 and its implications
- An awareness of Statutory Notices and systems for Health and Safety in the workplace
- An awareness of the role & powers of Enforcement Officers in Health & Safety at work