David Royden is a Partner with Laytons Solicitors and Head of Employment Law, Manchester, UK

Laytons Solicitors is a national law practice specialising in all aspects of Company and Commercial Law

Laytons Solicitors, 22 St John Street, Manchester M3 4EB.
Tel: +44 (0) 161 834 2100
Fax: +44 (0) 161 834 6862

Offices at London, Manchester and Guildford, UK




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The law imposes a responsibility on the employer to ensure safety at work for all their employees. Much of the law regarding safety in the work place can be found in the Health & Safety At Work Act 1974.

Employers have to take reasonable steps to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees at work. Failure to do so could result in a criminal prosecution in the Magistrate's Court or a Crown Court. Failure to ensure safe working practises could also lead to an employee suing for personal injury or in some cases the employer being prosecuted for corporate manslaughter.

As well as this legal responsibility, the employer also has an implied responsibility to take reasonable steps as far as they are able to ensure the health and safety of their employees is not put at risk. So an employer might be found liable for his actions or failure to act even if these are not written in law.

An employer should assess the level of risk as against the cost of eliminating that risk in deciding whether they have taken reasonable steps as far as they are able.

The employer's responsibility to the employee might include a duty to provide safe plant and machinery and safe premises, a safe system of work and competent trained and supervised staff. Certain groups of employees may require more care and supervision than others, for example disabled workers, pregnant workers, illiterate workers etc.

Usually the employer's responsibility is only to his or her own employees and premises; however, the responsibility can be extended in some circumstances.

For example:

1. Where employees from different firms are employed on one job, the main contractor will then be responsible for co-ordinating the work in a safe manner and must inform all employees of possible hazards whether they are his actual employees or not.
2. Where the employee is sent to work for someone else but remains employed by the same employer but an accident happens at the place where he has been sent to work, the responsibility may fall on the original employer.
3. The employer may also have responsibility to customers or visitors who use the work place.

It is always advisable for employers to have a written code of conduct, rules regarding training and supervision, and rules on safety procedures. This should include information on basic health and safety requirements. Leaflets and posters giving warnings of hazards are always advisable.

In any event an employer must establish a health and safety policy if they employ five or more workers. Where there is a recognised trade union in the workplace, which has appointed a safety representative that person must be consulted when drawing up the safety policy.

Also the management of Health & Safety At Work Regulations 1992 requires an employer to carry out a risk assessment of the work place and put in place appropriate control measures.

Any prospective employer setting up a new business should be aware of six important regulations which came about as a result of membership to the European Union and are incorporated into UK law.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 places an obligation on the employer to actively carry out a risk assessment of the work place and act accordingly.

Work place (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 deals with maintenance of the premises e.g. floors and corridors etc.

Provision And Use Of The Work Equipment Regulations 1992 deals with guarding dangerous machines.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 deals with the manual handling of equipment, stocks, materials etc.

Personal Protective Equipment Work Regulations 1992 deals with the introduction of protective clothing etc. where necessary.

The Health & Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 introduced measures to prevent repetitive strain injury, fatigue, eye problems etc. in the use of technological equipment.

The Health & Safety Executive and the Environmental Health Departments for the local authorities are responsible for enforcing the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and the various regulations.

They can provide information and guidance as well as enter premises to investigate conditions or seize and destroy harmful substances. They can also prosecute employers or serve Notices on them to improve working conditions, or in some cases serve Notices that work should stop altogether

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Employment Law Procedures - view section

Tribunal Claims - view section

Sample Documents - view section