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Extension of health and safety protection in the workplace

View profile for Stephen Woodhouse
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Fines of £2 million for firms involved in death of worker

A recent change in employment legislation has extended the scope of health and safety protection in the workplace.  Previously, only employees were protected from detriment (negative treatment) if they took steps to protect themselves from serious risk within the workplace. The introduction of this new legislation extends the law to protect workers, as well as employees. This change in the legislation comes as a result of the case of IWGB -v- Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. In this case, the High Court ruled that only applying this protection to employees, instead of workers as a whole, contravened the EU Health and Safety Directive.

This will come as welcome news to workers who will now be afforded greater protection from situations which put them at risk due to health and safety. Equally, employers need to be mindful of the development in the legislation and ensure that they treat all staff with fairness and equality, regardless of employment status, when addressing disputes surrounding health and safety.

In the current climate, the risk posed by the coronavirus is a continuous cause of dispute between businesses and their staff. By virtue of this new legislation, workers are now empowered to object to working conditions which put their health and safety in imminent danger, safe in the knowledge that the law now protects from disciplinary action and/or loss of pay which may result from this.

With this in mind, it is important that businesses continually evaluate their health and safety procedures, undertake the appropriate risk assessments and update these on a regular basis, so that they can protect staff and avoid falling foul of the legislation.

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