Right to a Safe System of Work – Health & Safety
Health and Safety is now a very large topic. You have a number of basic rights to a healthy and safe working environment. You do not have to be an employee – workers and agency staff , as well as self employed contractors ,are protected. You are also given some protection if you are a visitor to an employers premises. Basically you have the right to work in a safe, healthy environment. You are also protected against being disciplined or dismissed for raising genuine safety concerns with your employer.
The main Health and Safety requirements are:
Every employer owes his employees a duty to take reasonable care of their safety. This duty of care generally covers three categories although it must be emphasised that these categories are not exhaustive. The three broad categories are:
- A duty to provide competent staff
- A duty to provide adequate premises and plant
- A duty to provide a proper and safe system of work
Your Employer is also under a duty to carry out risk assessment of your job to point out any ares of concern – then take reasonable steps to reduce or eliminate any risks identified. You can ask to see the risk assessment for your job as these should be in writing where there are more than 5 workers.
If you believe that your employer has breached this duty of care (ie you have become ill or suffered an injury at work) you can bring a claim against this employer for damages which arise out of the employer’s alleged negligence.This claim will have to made in a Civil Court as Employment Tribunals do not deal with this type of claim for personal injury.
Contact our Advice Line for assistance.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 imposes a statutory requirement on all employers to ensure that premises, equipment, materials and working practices are safe. The Act imposes a wide range of general Health and Safety duties. These statutory provisions include the requirement for employers to prepare a written statement about their Health and Safety Policy. Firms with less than 5 employees are not obliged to put this policy in writing.
Health and safety in the workplace is supervised by a government agency – The Health and SafetyExecutive. Officers investigate incidents at work and have considerable powers to stop dangerous practices – they can stop a particular machine, plant or process, for example. Criminal proceedings can be commenced against employers.
Your Employer is obliged to assess the risks that you may be exposed to when carrying out your work – this extends to every job, not just those jobs we see as “hazardous”. This may mean manual handling in a stores job, or repetitive strain injury from keyboard work.
Your employer should also have regard to your hours of work, breaks etc. This is not just because of your rights under the Working Time rules.This is because your employer’s duty of care extends to your mental well being, not just the physical. Some stress at work claims by employees have succeeded because the employer failed to protect the employee, when the risk of a mental injury (ie. a stress related illness) was preventable but the employer failed to act.
You have responsibilities as well as an individual employee- to wear safety clothing provided, or to work in a specific way to avoid accident or injury for example. You should make sure that your actions do not put a fellow employee in danger as you may be held responsible, as well as your employer, for injuries caused by, say a practical joke.