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Who is responsible for workplace health and safety?

View profile for Alison Marriott
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When considering who is legally responsible for health and safety at work, it is important for businesses to be aware that the vast majority of the obligation falls on the employer themselves. Businesses must provide a safe working environment for all staff and any visitors or the general public. Failure to properly assess risks and take the necessary steps to make a workplace safe is a criminal offence.

Most businesses have an individual or team (depending on the size of company) who is responsible for health and safety at work in terms of ensuring there is an appropriate policy in place, risk assessments are carried out, staff training is provided where necessary and all areas of the business are compliant with the law.

Employees themselves have some responsibilities, in terms of keeping to the training or instructions that have been provided to them to keep them safe.

When it comes to potential prosecutions for serious breaches in health and safety law, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will look at the roles played by individuals in the incident to help determine or apportion responsibility for the offence. This may include directors and business owners, managers and employees.

We offer specialist help and advice with helping business ensure they are compliant with any areas of regulatory law, including health and safety. We can also give legal support if you are at risk of prosecution for a health and safety breach.

Who must create a workplace health and safety policy?

The law says that every business is required by law to have a health and safety policy in place. It needs to set out how the employer will manage health and safety in the business. For businesses with five or more employees, this policy document must be written down and shared with employees. They must also be notified of any changes to the policy.

The policy itself needs to cover the aims and commitment of the business with regard to health and safety, the responsibilities of individuals within the business in relation to health and safety and the practical arrangements that you have in place to achieve the policy aims e.g. risk assessments, training for employees, use of safety signs etc.

Whilst there is no legislation in relation to which individual or team of people actually create the workplace health and safety policy, it should always be agreed with and signed by the most senior person in that business, usually an owner or director, before being shared with employees.

Why might you need legal assistance with health and safety?

Looking after the health and safety of the people who work in and visit your business is a legal responsibility for any employer. Ensuring that you do this in a way that not only minimises the risks of harm to people in your workplace, but also helps protect you as a business from the threat of future claims or investigations, requires specialist knowledge.

This is where experienced health and safety solicitors can help. If you are investigated for a potential health and safety breach, we can assist with expert legal advice and support to help you achieve the best possible outcome. If you want to know more about how we can help you with the health and safety requirements for your business, call us on 0161 696 6250 .

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