A short guide to lead small businesses in the right direction.

Who is Responsible for Health and Safety?

Directors, Partners, Business Managers and Line-Managers may find themselves responsible for accidents and injuries, even if they do not own the business. This is in part because every employee has a legal responsibility to work safely and not to endanger the health and safety of other employees, or those likely to be affected by the work. So what do the HSE Enforcement Guidelines say?


Any enforcement action will be directed against duty holders responsible for a breach. This may be employers in relation to workers or others exposed to risks: the self-employed; owners of premises; suppliers of equipment; designers or clients of projects; and also employees themselves. Where several duty holders have responsibilities, enforcing authorities may take action against more than one when it is appropriate to do so in accordance with this policy.

It is therefore the responsibility of every person to participate fully in health and safety issues, and to bring any health and safety concerns to their employers’ attention. If they do not, they run the risk of being personally responsible if things go wrong.

Prosecution of individuals

Enforcing authorities should identify and prosecute, or recommend prosecution of individuals, if they consider that a prosecution is warranted. In particular, they should consider the management chain and the role played by individual directors and managers. Action should be taken against them where the inspection or investigation reveals that the offence was committed with their consent or connivance, but also if it is found to have been due to neglect on their part and where it would be appropriate to do so in accordance with this policy. Where appropriate, enforcing authorities should seek disqualification of directors under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986.

If you are a manager, you therefore need to work with the owners of the business to ensure that the business has the proper health and safety culture and is actively creating and maintaining a safe, healthy working environment.guide

It is also possible that managers will be held to be “responsible persons” under the new Fire Safety Order 2005 currently in force and under the Reporting of Accident Regulations (RIDDOR).

Do we require a health and safety policy?

As an employer you must do at least the following:

  • Take out employer’s liability insurance. You must also display the insurance certificate.
  • Display the Health & Safety Poster.
  • Appoint a competent person to have responsibility for day-to-day health and safety issues. This may be you alone or you and another person. It can be a fellow partner or director or an employee or an outside consultant.
  • Write a health and safety policy. If you have less than five employees in a year, you need not write your policy down but you must have one and you must consult your employees about it. Not writing it down makes it difficult to prove that you have met your obligations and difficult to discuss with your employees, so we recommend that all employers write down their policy, no matter how few employees you have.
  • Consult with your employees on all aspects of health and safety. Your employees are your greatest asset. Get them on your side by involving them early.

What about risk assessments?

  • Conduct Risk Assessments. Every employer must conduct an assessment to determine if any significant risks exist in the workplace or in the working practices of the business. They must then take all reasonably practicable steps to remove or reduce them or to protect their workers from them. Where you have more than five employees, the results of the risk assessment must be written down and your employees consulted. In any case, we would advise every employer to write down their risk assessment results. Different statutes and regulations require different risk assessments depending upon the industry you are in and what it is that your business does.

Other responsibilities

  • Provide adequate welfare facilities. This includes such things as toilets and restrooms, drinking water, lighting and heating.
  • Provide health and safety training and information. You must ensure that your employees are properly trained to do their job safely.
  • Appoint someone to be responsible for First Aid. If you have enough employees, or the risks inherent in your business require it, then you should also have trained first aiders.
  • Keep an Accident Book and comply with the Reporting of Accident Regulations (RIDDOR). Every accident and near miss should be recorded in an accident book. Certain accidents and absences from work must also be reported to the Authorities.

In addition

You must stay up-to-date. Your risk assessments must remain current and relevant and must be reevaluated in the event of a change of circumstances. You must continue to consult with your employees and you must keep your health and safety policy under review.

Company obligations towards Health and Safety: Need to Know
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