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Self-employed exempt from Health & Safety Act demands. Or are they?
Posted by David Cant on October 13, 2015

Self-employed exempt from Health and Safety Act demands. Or are they?

Health and safety at work 2015As part of their commitment to reduce red tape for small business in the UK, the government has exempted the self-employed from meeting the demands of the Health & Safety at Work Act. But despite this headline announcement, there are still some industries and roles whom remain bound by the regulations.

Work in construction – no shortcuts for you

One of the “scheduled activities” (those industries who still have to uphold the Act) is construction. If you work on a building site, or hold one of the specified Construction (Design and Management) roles, nothing has actually changed and you are duty bound to perform routine workplace risk assessments and implement safeguards to protect other people on site.

Asbestos remains a challenge

Because of the ongoing dangers of asbestos exposure, any role that involves contact with the substance also remains bound by the Act. Whether handling asbestos, or sampling substances suspected to contain the compound, you will still need to implement suitable procedures to minimise the risk of exposure, along with documentation to prove you have properly assessed each situation.

Gas fitters are on the list too

The inherent dangers of working with potentially explosive gas means that self-employed fitters and engineers will also need to continue as before. You should already have the necessary frameworks in place to meet your obligations – and if you don’t, you need to get something ready now.

Other scheduled activities include contractors working with nuclear fuels or installations, anyone involved in agricultural activities, persons working on railways and scientists handling genetically modified organisms.

And if you are exempt?

The 2015 amendment contains a very important caveat that every business needs to be aware of – if your business poses a risk to the health and safety of anyone else, you will still be bound by the Act. So the reality is that although everything seems to have changed for most self-employed individuals, nothing has actually changed at all.

Whether you carry out a full risk assessment, or simply perform a quick check, you’ll still need to identify and mitigate any potential dangers to yourself, your employer or the general public. And because of the ambiguities of the phrase ‘if your work activity poses a risk to the health and safety of others, then the law applies to you’, virtually anyone could find themselves on the end of an HSE investigation.

To be on the safe side then, most self-employed people would be well-advised to continue with compliant health and safety assessments to cover their backs, and to provide a suitable level of protection for themselves and others. Veritas Consulting provide a number of risk assessment templates to help you get started.

So over to you – as a self-employed tradesperson, have you ever been involved in an HSE investigation?


Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME's favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick.

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