Employers Duties

What are your Duties as an Employer

Employers have a number of responsibilities for the health and safety of their employees. They are also responsible for any visitors to their premises such as customers, suppliers and the general public. This section outlines the steps that need to be taken to meet your legal obligations under the 1974 Health & Safety at Work Act & the 1981 Health & Safety (First Aid) Regulations.

Risk Assessments

All employers including those with less than five employees, and the self employed have a duty of care under these two pieces of legislation to look after, as far as possible, the health, safety and welfare of its employees and also any visitors to your premises.

The first steps towards meeting your legal obligation is a risk assessment to identify possible health and safety hazards and to appoint a 'competent person' with health and safety responsibilities. This is usually one of the owners in smaller firms, or a member of staff trained in health and safety in larger businesses. See our FAQ's & Resources for information how to carry out a risk assessment.

Businesses employing five or more people:

For businesses employing five or more people, there must also be:

  • an official record of what the assessment finds (your have to put plans in place to deal with the risks)
  • a formal health and safety policy, including arrangements to protect your health and safety (your staff should be told what these are).

The Employers Duty of Care

All employers, whatever the size of the business, must:

  • make the workplace safe
  • prevent risks to health
  • ensure that plant and machinery is safe to use, and that safe working practices are set up and followed
  • make sure that all materials are handled, stored and used safely
  • provide adequate equipment, facilities and personnel that enables first-aid to be rendered to your employees or visitors if they are injured or become ill at work.
  • tell you about any potential hazards from the work you do, chemicals and other substances used by the firm, and give you information, instructions, training and supervision as needed
  • set up emergency plans
  • make sure that ventilation, temperature, lighting, and toilet, washing and rest facilities all meet health, safety and welfare requirements
  • check that the right work equipment is provided and is properly used and regularly maintained
  • prevent or control exposure to substances that may damage your health
  • take precautions against the risks caused by flammable or explosive hazards, electrical equipment, noise and radiation
  • avoid potentially dangerous work involving manual handling and if it can't be avoided, take precautions to reduce the risk of injury
  • provide health supervision as needed
  • provide protective clothing or equipment free of charge if risks can't be removed or adequately controlled by any other means
  • ensure that the right warning signs are provided and looked after
  • report certain accidents, injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences to either the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or the local authority, depending on the type of business

Making the Workplace Safe

To provide a safe and healthy place to work, your should:

  • make sure that workplaces are properly ventilated, with clean and fresh air
  • keep temperatures at a comfortable level - a minimum of 13 degrees C where the work involves physical activity or 16 degrees C for 'sedentary' workplaces eg offices but there's no maximum limit
  • light premises so that employees can work and move about safely
  • keep the workplace and equipment clean
  • ensure that workrooms are big enough to allow easy movement with at least 11 cubic metres per person
  • provide workstations to suit the employees and the work
  • keep the workplace and equipment in good working order
  • make floors, walkways, stairs, roadways etc safe to use
  • protect people from falling from height or into dangerous substances
  • store things so they are unlikely to fall and cause injuries
  • fit openable windows, doors and gates with safety devices if needed
  • provide suitable washing facilities and clean drinking water
  • if necessary, provide somewhere for employees to get changed and to store their own clothes
  • set aside areas for rest breaks and to eat meals, including suitable facilities for pregnant women and nursing mothers
  • let employees take appropriate rest breaks and their correct holiday entitlement
  • make sure that employees who work alone, or off-site, can do so safely and healthily