The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HASAWA), and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR) lay down some of the main responsibilities and duties of persons at work.
Among the duties HASAWA places on employers are the requirements to ensure the health and safety at work of their employees and that of any other person who may be affected by their activities; and to have a written health and safety policy.
It also places duties on employees to:
(a) take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by their “acts or omissions”;
(b) to co-operate with their employer so the latter can comply with his legal duties;
(c) not to interfere or misuse anything provided in the interests of health, safety or welfare.
The main requirements of the Management Regulations are that employers must: assess the risks to the health and safety of anyone who may be affected by their activities; and that adequate arrangements must be in place for the “planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review” of the safety measures that follow from those assessments.
Whereas the employing authority (the company) recognise that they have primary responsibility, as the employer, for the health and safety of staff, contractors and visitors, and that they cannot delegate their general duties under law , each individual staff member bears some responsibility for health and safety.
This may be as simple as the legal duty to co-operate with the company. However, any employee acting in a managerial or supervisory capacity bears additional responsibilities – the more senior the appointment, the more onerous the responsibility.
The level of that responsibility is directly linked to the level of control exercised. In health and safety terms, each manager/supervisor is responsible for those people and activities they are expected to control and are accountable in law for their actions.
The HSE will take action for a Health and Safety failure.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are the national body responsible for the enforcement of health and safety law and will consider taking action against individuals following an inspection or an accident investigation. Their enforcement policy states that a prosecution should normally take place in any one of a number of circumstances, including:
(a) when a workplace death is caused by a breach of the law;
(b) if there has been reckless disregard of health and safety requirements;
(c) if the offender’s standard of health and safety management is far below what is required.
When considering whether to prosecute individuals, the HSE consider the management chain and the role played by individual managers. The policy states that action should be taken where an offence was committed with the consent or connivance or to have been attributable to neglect on the part of the individual.
What if a Manager has done everything possible.
On the other hand, if a manager has done everything possible to comply with the law, and has taken all reasonable and normal steps to ensure the health and safety of staff, and any other persons who might be affected by that companys activities, then it is very unlikely that the manager would be considered for prosecution.
Reasonable and normal steps would include: carrying out risk assessments; addressing high risk matters revealed by that assessment; ensuring equipment is regularly checked and maintained; and ensuring that staff understand their own responsibilities in relation to health and safety are properly trained, and competent to fulfil their functions.
Any manager who is uncertain about health and safety issues should contact the Health, Safety and Environment dept for advice. If they follow procedures and reasonable recommendations they will be seen to have properly carried out their health and safety responsibilities.
Specific Health and Safety Guidance for Managers
Detailed information on health and safety matters and copies of legislation may be obtained from the Health, Safety and advisers (Veritas Consulting) and managers are encouraged to use this resource to support their management tasks.
There are also a number of specific areas of health and safety where it is necessary for a manager to have a basic working knowledge of the duties and requirements. What is required will depend on the circumstances of the work and area concerned but will certainly include:
- Risk assessment (including COSHH Assessment where applicable);
- Emergency and evacuation procedures;
- Accident and incident reporting;
- Use of work equipment; PAT compliance
- Manual Handling.
- Assessing contractors competence
Further information can be obtained from Veritas Consulting on 0121 249 1281 or visiting our website Health and Safety Consultants.