Hazards in the workplace
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in the Pink Book of Legislation, we regret that we cannot be responsible for any errors. This guide is not intended to be a definitive statement of the law in England. If you require precise or detailed information on the legislation mentioned in this guide, or on the legal implications for you in particular, you should consult a professional legal adviser.
- All employers must consider the risks to staff arising from the hazards associated with aspects of the workplace. A hazard is something with the potential to cause harm.
- The working environment must be suitable, at a reasonable temperature, have adequate lighting and ventilation and include sufficient rest facilities.
- Employers should reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls by cleaning spillages, keeping walkways clear and organising work better.
- All electrical systems in places of work must be maintained 'so far as is reasonably practicable' to avoid danger to all who use the premises (including guests).
- Although Heath and Safety can be a complex area of legislation, there are two main sets of regulations that you need to be aware of: the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 cover your employees' working environment, setting out the requirements in respect of:
- the quality of the working environment (e.g. reasonable temperature, lighting and ventilation)
- suitability of the environment (e.g. room dimensions, space, passageways and windows)
- the facilities for your employees (e.g. toilets, washing and eating facilities, drinking water, changing and rest areas and rest facilities for pregnant women)
- the maintenance and cleanliness of the workplace, equipment and facilities.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
The main requirement of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 is that employers must carry out risk assessments to eliminate or reduce risks. Employers with five or more employees need to record the significant findings of a risk assessment - it is not necessary to record risk assessments for trivial or insignificant risks. In addition, employers also need to:
- make arrangements for implementing the health and safety measures identified as necessary by risk assessments
- monitor and review those arrangements
- appoint people with sufficient knowledge, skills, experience and training to help them to implement these arrangements
- set up emergency procedures and provide information about them to employees
- provide clear information supervision and training for employees and ensure that suitably competent people are appointed who are capable of carrying out the tasks entrusted to them
- work together with any other employer(s) operating from the same workplace, sharing information on the risks that other staff may be exposed to, e.g., cleaning, catering or maintenance contractors
- take particular account of risks to new and expectant mothers.
Use of safety glass
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 include the use of safety glass or materials in the workplace.
These regulations will not normally apply to self-catering accommodation unless someone works there, e.g., a cleaner. However, the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 could potentially be applied to self-catering businesses (see the Product Safety section) and could be taken to cover glass in doors, windows and elsewhere. Always be sure that the glass in your property is adequate for the use to which it is being put.
If there is a large pane of glass, especially if it extends to below waist height, you need to consider the risk of it being broken or walked into. If the circumstances lead to the conclusion that there is no risk, no action needs to be taken, but if there is a risk of it being broken it should be glazed with safety glass and also marked so that it is obviously present (e.g. with an etched design).
What glass is covered by the regulations?
It is not the case that the regulations apply to all glazing. In the past, a number of glaziers have misrepresented these regulations in attempts to persuade businesses to replace or modify all windows, glazed doors, walls or partitions. The actual requirement is as follows.
Windows and transparent or translucent doors, gates and walls
Every window or other transparent or translucent surface in a wall or partition, and every transparent or translucent surface in a door or gate shall, where necessary for reasons of health or safety:
- be of safety material or be protected against breakage of the transparent or translucent material
- be appropriately marked or incorporate features so as, in either case, to make it apparent.
General guidance to the regulations then adds that transparent or translucent surfaces in doors, gates, walls and partitions should be of a safety material or be adequately protected against breakage in the following cases:
- in doors and gates, and door and gate side panels, where any part of the transparent or translucent surface is at shoulder level or below
- in windows, walls and partitions, where any part of the transparent or translucent surface is at waist level or below, except in glasshouses where people there will be likely to be aware of the presence of glazing and avoid contact.
Safety glass or materials are only necessary in certain cases where a particular need or risk has been identified. Indeed, the chances are that it will already have been fitted as a matter of routine. Wholesale replacement of windows and glazed doors or partitions is not implied by the regulations.