Everyone is entitled to a safe working environment and your employer is required to provide you with an up to date health and safety at work policy.
This must be in force when you become an employee of a company.
If an employer fails to provide this basic requirement they are at risk from prosecution in court.
There is an exception to this; some government departments have crown immunity and cannot be prosecuted. The National Health Service needs to abide with these requirement and their own health and safety policy should be clearly defined.
Generally speaking all employers need to be aware of their responsibility and the law for most factories and plants is policed by the Health and Safety Executive
In addition, offices, shops, hotels and most other small businesses are covered by the local authority environmental health officer.
They in effect both work together to enforce and uphold good health and safety and work standards. They both have the power to visit any workplace at any time to enforce their policy.
Regulations made under the 1974 health and safety at work act applies to any business or industry, but there are often set guidelines for specific tasks and procedures. These procedures must be followed and failure to do so has serious consequences for business owners.
Often guidelines are published and displayed at business premises so that all operating staff is aware of the procedures involved.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has recently signed an agreement with the BCA (Building Control Alliance) to work more closely to improve health and safety standards in the building and construction industries.
The new agreement outlines how the HSE and building control will work together and support each other. The main emphasis would be that the HSE would provide advise to the construction industry in general.
The BCA is the foundation help for building control workers and is responsible for ensuring that that building workers are compliant with the new up to date building regulations.
This applies in the local authorities departments, private sector and the professional bodies that may accredit them.
The HSE is in the main trying to work more closely with the building trades to try to maintain a safer working environment and stresses that in order to do this they might have to work with other bodies including the BCA in the future.
What employees should do about safety
Everyone at work must adhere to the all health and safety laws.
They must ensure that they take every precaution to avoid injury to themselves and others at all times.
They must ensure that they do not compromise the integrity of any safety or security equipment within their working environment.
The employee should work with the employer to ensure that safety issues are met and understood.
What employers should do about safety
Wherever possible employers should ensure the health, welfare and safety of everybody effected by the processes or activities of their businesses.
All self employed or employers who employs more than five people should have a strict policy of risk assessment in place and should keep a record of all events and findings.
A safety statement showing the operational policy and procedures should be clearly displayed and must be understood by everyone including part time workers and trainees.
Putting those policies into action
Where their is a union involved it is likely that any safety policy is worked out with the union and often this is a legal requirement. However, where there is no union, the safety policy is normally put in place by the employer alone. Again, this has to comply with all the relevant laws.
When changes are made to health and safety at work policy everyone within the company should be notified and the details should be displayed. In addition, the terms of any contract of employment if affected should be changed.
Employers should put in place any measures identified by risk assessment. They must also carry out fire drills at regular intervals and monitor any other hazards that might effect the safety of any individual.
Competent heath and safety people should be on hand to implement any changes and provide information to anyone requesting it.
How safety at work is enforced
Anyone who breaks the law relating to one of the main sections of the health and safety at work act of 1974 is liable to a fine of up to £20,000 in a magistrates court or an unlimited fine if it should go to crown court.
In addition, any employee or employer flouting the act’s other regulations whether an accident has been caused or not could be liable to be prosecuted in the magistrates court and fined £5000 (level 5 breach).
The employee has their own responsibility as well, and if they do not adhere to safety procedures and become injured as a result they could suffer disciplinary action by the employer; they might also be prosecuted by the HSE and refused compensation for injuries sustained.
It is possible that the employer could also be prosecuted for negligence for the employees negligence and for not supervising the employees behavior adequately.