Health & Safety at Work Act

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.

Key facts

  • The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (HSWA) places general duties and responsibilities on all people at work, including employers, employees and the self-employed.
  • Your are responsible for ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all your employees at work plus anyone else who could be affected by your work activities, e.g., guests, casual workers, contractors.
  • Your employees also have a responsibility to take reasonable care of their own health and safety.
  • If you employ more than five people you must have a written health and safety policy.
  • You must carry out a risk assessment to identify and manage any risks.

 

Your responsibilities as an employer to employees and others

The Health and Safety at Work Act etc.1974 (HSWA) sets the framework for health and safety regulations in the workplace. The Act places general duties and responsibilities on all people at work, including employers, employees and the self-employed. There are two important responsibilities for an employer:

  • You are responsible for ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all your employees at work (your employees also have a responsibility to take reasonable care of their own health and safety).
  • You have a wider responsibility to ensure, again so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of other people who are affected by your business, for example guests, their children and visitors, a casual worker or a contractor.

 

All the health and safety legislation covered in this service relates to employers, employees, the self-employed and the workplace. The provisions do not normally apply to self-catering accommodation owners unless they have employees working on their premises, e.g., doing cleaning or maintenance work. If you have an employee, the legislation is applicable whether or not that employee is at work, and whether or not the employee works at the premises concerned. In other words, if you employ anyone at all, you are an employer, and you must comply with the Act in the management of your whole business.

Health and safety law seldom prescribes specific rules for you to follow. Far more often it requires you to manage safety for yourself, and there are severe penalties for not doing so, which, since January 2009, include the possibility of a jail sentence. It is mandatory that you devote time and careful attention to the management of safety in your business; this is at the heart of the law and you cannot fulfil your legal duties by form-filling or cursory treatment of the topic.

 

Additional health and safety legislation

Other health and safety legislation supplements the HSWA's general responsibilities with specific requirements. The key regulations are covered in this service publication - see the following sections: 

Policy statement and risk assessment

If you employ five or more people, you must have a written health and safety policy that includes the arrangements for management of safety in your business.

Your health and safety arrangements will come from doing a risk assessment to identify any risks and then making decisions on how to manage such risks, so far as is reasonably practicable, to comply with health and safety law.

If you employ five or more employees, you must record:

  • the significant findings of the assessment
  • any group of employees identified by it as being especially at risk.

 

Even if you do not employ five people, it is still good practice to make a written record of your assessment. If you do not, it may later be difficult to demonstrate that a suitable and sufficient risk assessment has been carried out.

For information about how to do a risk assessment see the 'Safety management' section.

 

Health and safety notices

You are required to display the Health and Safety Law poster if you employ anyone.

Alternatively you can provide your employees with individual copies of the same information in a leaflet entitled Your Health, Your Safety - A Guide for Workers.

 

Enforcement

Local Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) are responsible for enforcing health and safety in hotels, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, holiday homes and caravan sites.

 

Further guidance