Construction Health and Safety Consultancy and CDM Adviser Services

Health and Safety Law

A simple overview of what the law requires

Health and safety law is very important and will cost you a lot if you get it wrong.

It is part of criminal law, so you could be prosecuted if you do something wrong or don’t do something you are required to do. This could mean a fine or even imprisonment. You cannot insure against these penalties.

You can also be sued through the civil courts by anyone who is injured. You can insure against claims but insurance companies are likely to increase your premium if you do claim. Insurance costs are set to rise dramatically so this could be expensive too, apart from the time it takes. Even more severe, some insurance companies are beginning to withdraw cover from small companies because claims levels in that kind of trade are so high.

What you must do is to make any place of work safe and healthy for anyone who might be affected. This means that if there is an accident or someone gets ill because of work, you are guilty until you can prove you are innocent. Everyone at work has some duties in law and if you are in charge of the work of others you are also jointly responsible for them, even if you are not at the site.

What is Reasonably Practicable?

To prove you are innocent you must show that you have doneeverything reasonably practicable. That means that you have thought about what could go wrong and you have spent time, effort and money to manage the problems in the same way that any other individual in your position would do. Make sure you also check that you are within the law and not judging yourself against others who are not doing a particularly good job with safety or health.

Another thing the law says you must do is a risk assessment.

A risk assessment can be all sorts of things and will be very different for Railtrack or the nuclear industry compared with what is sensible for you. What you have to do for any job is to look at the things that might go wrong and then work out how to stop disasters happening or at least how to reduce the problem. For instance, if you have to work at height, think about the best way to stop people falling and also how to stop anything falling on people below.

You must write down your assessment of risk and the controls you have put in place if you have five or more employees and the risks are high.

Can I do Generic Risk Assessments?

You can do a generic risk assessment, which is an assessment of the common types of work you do.

Remember health and safety law demands:

  • a safe workplace
  • a healthy workplace
  • assessment and control of risk
  • some detailed actions for certain situations

If you have five or more employees including yourself and any part time employees you need a written health and safety policy statement and the organisation and arrangements for health and safety management must also be written down.

Related topics

Health and Safety at Work

Health and Safety frequently asked questions

Risk Assessment

What is Generic Risk Assessment

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