In Finch Consulting’s first health and safety toolbox talk for Directors last week, we outlined Directors responsibilities for health and safety, and the key elements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR). This week, health and safety specialist solicitor Julia Thomas and former HSE Principal Inspector Melvin Sandell summarise the requirements around provision of a safe and healthy workplace under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.
The attitudes of the workforce and how they behave in their workplace are a direct reflection of the attitudes and behaviours demonstrated by its Directors setting the priorities and tone of the business. Safe, tidy, and well-run workplaces aren’t an accident, they result from input, engagement and challenge from Directors who take the time to be seen to care about their staff.
Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (also known as the Workplace Regulations)
The definition of a workplace is wide and effectively covers everywhere work is carried out, be it a food factory, a school, a field, and even private dwellings used for work.
There are a few exceptions such as on ships or in mines but there are equivalent pieces of legislation that effectively require the same standards. Do not assume you are exempt. If you are unsure whether the Regulations apply to you seek specialist advice from lawyers like those at Finch.
Like the MHSWR covered last week, the Workplace Regulations change the ‘reasonably practicable’ general duties in the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 into legally binding ‘must’ duties and require that you ensure:
- The workplace and everything in it, is maintained so it is safe and that maintenance (of plant and buildings) can be carried out safely.
- Adequate lighting and ventilation so people can work safely.
- That the temperature is reasonable given what work is done there.
- The workplace and all doors, windows, and skylights etc are appropriately clean, and that waste is dealt with.
- That there is enough space to ensure people can work without risk to their health safety or welfare.
- Floors and traffic routes are safe, and that pedestrians and vehicles can move around safely.
- There are enough toilets, appropriate washing facilities and drinking water for the number of staff and what they are doing.
- There are changing and storage areas and somewhere for employees to rest and eat.
All of these requirements need to be met proportionately, taking account of what is appropriate for the particular workplace. Every year there are myths about ‘too hot’ or ‘too cold’ for work, but the Regulations are not designed to stop work – simply to ensure it is done safely. A few examples would be:
- People working in a hot workplace such as a furnace should be given appropriate clothing, access to extra cool drinks and be given extra breaks etc.
- People working in cold workplaces such as freezers or food processing plants should be given warm clothing and in extreme circumstances should be allowed regular breaks to warm up.
- The workplace does not have to be spotlessly clean but should be clean enough that people are not put at risk from slippery surfaces, accumulations of flammable waste or dust, and can move around safely.
- Buildings, doors, windows, and electrical and gas installations should be in good working order, and safe so that staff can use them. Their general condition is less important than the fact they are safe, though of course safe and in perfect condition would be best.
- People such as window cleaners, building contractors and those visiting the premises have a reasonable expectation that the floors, carpets, stairs and so on are safe and can be used without risk.
Directors are ultimately responsible for ensuring all these measures are in place to create a healthy and safe working environment. Remember the more comfortable the workplace the more productive your staff will be – so it is worth the time and investment to get these things right. And there may be criminal liability for the business and for you if these matters are ignored.
For more information or if you have any questions contact:
[email protected] 07909 682 688
[email protected] 07527 002689