Obligations of Employers

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 imposes duties on all employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees. This includes the provision of safe plant and systems of work, and making arrangements for the safe handling, storage and transport of all articles used at work. Information, instruction, training and supervision should be provided so as to ensure employees’ health and safety.

If your employer breaks these obligations, the Health and Safety Executive inspectors can issue prohibition or improvement notices requiring the work to be stopped or the machinery to be improved. They also have power to prosecute your employer for offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

If your trade union is recognised for collective bargaining, you have the right to appoint union safety representatives who are given rights under the Act to time off with pay and to carry out inspection of the workplace and of relevant documents. Employers must consult safety representatives on health and safety arrangements. Claims for time off can be made to an Employment Tribunal or complaints about safety can be made to the Health and Safety Executive.

General Health and Safety Obligations

Some of these obligations apply in all circumstances - they are ‘absolute’ duties and any breach of them will be a breach of the law. Some depend on what is practicable, in which case a lesser standard will suffice;
  • Employers must keep workplaces clean
  • At a reasonable temperature, a minimum of 16¼C, or 13¼C when the work requires severe physical effort
  • Free from humidity, well ventilated,
  • Well lit and well provided with toilets and clean floors.
  • Dangerous machinery must be guarded or, when this is not practicable, other suitable steps taken.
  • Cranes must be kept in good mechanical order and be regularly inspected.
  • If you are working on processes involving danger to your eyes, you must be provided with and wear eye protection.
  • Adequate drinking water and washing facilities must be provided. The atmosphere must be kept free of harmful dust and fumes.
S pecific regulations cover, for example, working with asbestos, wood, civil engineering, lead, and nuclear radiation and in foundries.

Fire Safety

The Fire Precautions Act 1971 requires a fire authority to give a certificate to the occupiers of any workplace other than low-risk premises where an exemption has been granted or when there are fewer than 20 employees. This imposes duties on employers to ensure that fire precautions and means of escape are provided and maintained.
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