UK Health & Safety Legislation

As a business within the UK, you hold a duty by statute to comply with the legislation compiled on Health & Safety pratices in commerce, namely the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

General Risks

Any business, whether a large production factory or an administration office, and everything in between, is required to have considered the general risks to staff and non-employees which arise from their trading activities.

If you employ 5 or more PAYE employees, you are required to hold a written Health and Safety Policy and to implement and manage he procedure detailed within it.

Whilst businesses with fewer than 5 employees do not need to have this document in place, they are required to demonstrate that the risks associated with their trading activities have been considered and minimised.

Good practice would involve devising a Health & Safety Statement of Intent and writing risk assessment documentation for procedures involved in the day to day running of the business.

Fire Safety

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, all commercial premises are required to have had a Fire Risk Assessment conducted upon them.

Where commercial premises have ‘common’ areas, it will be the landlord or managing agent’s responsibility to consider the fire risks of these portions, with the tenant retaining responsibility for the self-contained portion of the premises.

A thorough fire risk assessment will highlight the risks and exposures associated with fire to those particular premises. The document should take into account the processes undertaken on the premises, along with the physical structure of the building.

The risk assessment needs to be continually managed and reviewed to ensure that best practice is always followed on the premises in question.

The Consequences

Dependent on the trade of the business in question, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) or the Local Authorities in the area have enforcing authority in ensuring that the legislation laid down is being adhered to.

Both agencies have the authority to inspect a trading business at any point they feel necessary. If material breaches to UK legislation are discovered during such an inspection, there are various costs that can be levied towards the business and its Directors. Such costs can include fees, penalties and in severe cases, imprisonment.

In addition, the absence of legally required documentation can have a detrimental effect on a business’ insurance policies in the event of an incident or claim, or can affect the way the emergency services respond to an incident at a business premises.

Real World Example

A bakery in Burnley was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £5,002 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment (PUWER) Regulations 1998 by failing to prevent access to dangerous machine parts.

It was discovered that part of a metal guard had been deliberately removed from the machinery in order to increase productivity.

A staff member had been feeding goods into the machine when their right hand was struck by the moving parts, causing them to be absent from work for nearly a year.