Your employer has to carry out a risk assessment and do what's needed to take care of the health and safety of employees and visitors. This includes deciding how many first aiders are needed, and what kind of first aid equipment and facilities should be provided. First aiders have no statutory right to extra pay, but some employers do offer this.
Employees must also take reasonable care over their own health and safety.
Your most important responsibilities as an employee are:
- to take reasonable care of your own health and safety
- if possible avoid wearing jewellery or loose clothing if operating machinery
- if you have long hair or wear a headscarf, make sure it's tucked out of the way (it could get caught in machinery)
- to take reasonable care not to put other people - fellow employees and members of the public - at risk by what you do or don't do in the course of your work
- to co-operate with your employer, making sure you get proper training and you understand and follow the company's health and safety policies
- not to interfere with or misuse anything that's been provided for your health, safety or welfare
- to report any injuries, strains or illnesses you suffer as a result of doing your job (your employer may need to change the way you work)
- to tell your employer if something happens that might affect your ability to work (eg becoming pregnant or suffering an injury) - your employer has a legal responsibility for your health and safety, they may need to suspend you while they find a solution to the problem, but you will normally be paid if this happens
- if you drive or operate machinery, to tell your employer if you take medication that makes you drowsy - they should temporarily move you to another job if they have one for you to do
Any injury at work - including minor injuries - should be recorded in your employer's 'accident book'. All employers (except for very small companies) must keep an accident book. It's mainly for the benefit of employees, as it provides a useful record of what happened in case you need time off work or need to claim compensation later on. But recording accidents also helps your employer to see what's going wrong and take action to stop accidents in future.
You should first of all discuss your concerns with your employer or immediate boss. Your company may have a safety representative, who might be your first point of contact. If you have an employee representative, such as a trade union official, they may be able to help you.
As a last resort, you can get in touch with the authority responsible for enforcing health and safety in your workplace (either the HSE or your local authority).
Health and safety inspectors have powers to enforce the law. If you take this course of action, your employer must not discipline you or put you at a disadvantage in your job (eg by not paying you for the time you refused to work because of unsafe conditions, passing you over for promotion, etc).
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued guidance to Local Authorities under Section 18 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HASWA). Under this Act, Local Authorities are required to make adequate arrangements for the enforcement of health and safety in their areas.
The Health and Safety Service Plan sets out how the council will plan, manage and deliver its health and safety enforcement service. A duty is placed on all local authorities to produce a Service Plan for health and safety, which must include the investigation of accidents and complaints, as well as address the issues of service requests, advice for businesses,initiatives and routine inspections.
View the Health and Safety Service Plan (PDF 101KB)
Find out more about preventing and treating health issues. The following links will take you to the Health and Safety Executive website.
Slips and trips are one of the most common cause of major injuries at work and they can occur in any workplace; In a typical year, slips and trips account for over 33% of all reported major injuries and approximately 20% of over-3-day injuries to employees. In 2008, nearly 11,000 workers suffered serious injury as a result of a slip or trip in the workplace.
Slip and trip accidents can happen for a number of reasons, but are often the result of one or a combination of common factors.
- Flooring - Poorly fitted, maintained or cleaned flooring can present trip or slip hazards. It is also important to ensure that the floor in the workplace is suitable for the type of work activity that will be taking place on it. The floor must be maintained in good order to ensure that there are no trip hazards e.g. holes, uneven surfaces, curled up edges, and other changes of level should be avoided, and if they cant they must be highlighted.
- Contamination - Most floors only become slippery once they become contaminated. Contamination can be anything that ends up on the floor e.g. rainwater, grease, oil, cardboard, product wrapping, dust, etc. Therefore, one of the most effective control measures may be to prevent contamination in the first place. If this cannot be achieved, the consider can then contamination be controlled? If floor contaminated cannot be stopped, then you will need to ensure that it is cleaned effectively and quickly.
- Obstacles - 50% of all trip accidents are caused by poor housekeeping. So improving housekeeping / tidiness in your workplace, should help reduce the risk of a slip or trip occurring.
- Cleaning - Cleaning is important in every workplace. As such, everyone in the workplace has a role to play in keeping the workplace clean and tidy and helping to reduce slip and trip risks e.g. dealing with their own spillages wherever possible. Cleaning itself can create its own set of slips and trip hazards, especially for those entering the area being cleaned. As such, extra care needs to be taken over the organisation and carrying out of cleaning activities, especially where normal work activities are being carried out at the same time or in close proximity.
Many people use computers or visual display units (VDUs) as part of their job. Most suffer no ill-effects. VDUs don't give out harmful levels of radiation and rarely cause skin complaints.
If you use one and suffer ill-effects it may be because of the way you are using the computer. For example, you might suffer from strain in the back of the hand due to excessive 'mouse' clicking, or stress or neckache if you use a VDU without a break for a long time. Problems like these can be avoided by a well-designed workstation and job.
There is no legal limit to how long you should work at a VDU, but under health and safety regulations you have the right to breaks from work using a VDU. These don't have to be rest breaks, just different types of work.
Guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggests it's better to take shorter breaks more often at your workstation than longer breaks and less often, eg a 5-10 minute break after 50-60 minutes continuous screen and/or keyboard work is likely to be better than a 15 minute break every two hours. But if your job means spending long periods at a VDU, eg data input, then longer breaks from your workstation should be introduced.
When working at a VDU make sure you can sit in a comfortable position, and keep a good posture. Your eyes should be level with the screen. Make sure you have enough space and don't sit in the same position for too long.
Manual handling is transporting or supporting loads by hand or using bodily force. Many people hurt their back, arms, hands or feet lifting everyday loads, not just when the load is too heavy. More than a third of all over-three-day injuries reported each year to the HSE and to local authorities are the result of manual handling. Upper limbs refers to the neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, hands and fingers.
Upper limb disorders (sometimes called repetitive strain injury (RSI)) can happen in almost any workplace where people do repetitive, or forceful manual activities in awkward postures, for prolonged periods of time. These can cause muscular aches and pains that may initially be temporary, but if such work is not properly managed, and the early symptoms are not recognised and treated, these can progress to a chronic and disabling disorder.
Cumulative damage can build up over time causing pain and discomfort in people’s backs, arms, hands and legs. Most cases can be avoided by eliminating the need for manual handling, e.g. by providing suitable lifting equipment that is regularly maintained, together with relevant training on both manual handling and using the equipment safely.
If the answer to any of the following questions is yes you probably need to consider what else you should do:
Does the work include strenuous lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, reaching or repetitive handling?
Do staff have repetitive finger, hand or arm movements which are frequent, forceful or awkward?
Does the work involve twisting, squeezing, hammering or pounding?
Asbestos is the largest single cause of work-related fatal disease and ill-health in Great Britain. The majority of asbestos-related deaths and ill health are from exposures that occurred many years ago, but if you work with asbestos, or come into contact with it during repair and maintenance work, you are at risk. You should avoid working with asbestos if possible, but if not you must do it safely.
Asbestos can be found in many forms in buildings built from around the 1950's to the 1990's. It may also be found in some vehicle brake pads and clutch linings.
Does this concern me?
- If you own or manage a workplace building which may contain asbestos containing materials (ACMs), the law requires you to identify these and to take steps to manage any asbestos in your building safely.
- Do you know whether there is asbestos in your premises? It is often found in roofs and exterior walls, on boilers, vessels and pipework, ceilings, interior walls and panels, flooring materials, air handling systems, domestic appliances, brake/clutch linings, fire blankets etc
- Does your work involve maintenance and repair of premises? You might disturb asbestos while doing routine work. You will need to pay specific attention to the identification and effective management of the risks from asbestos materials.
- Do you know what the rules are about removing asbestos? In most cases, you will need to use a contractor licensed by HSE to work with asbestos.