Health & safety compliance - competent help

The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to appoint one or more `competent` persons to assist them in ensuring general health and safety compliance. Such persons must have sufficient time allocated to them in order to fulfil this function, and also be given the necessary means to do so, having regard to the size of the organisation and the risks to which employs are exposed. Such persons can be directly employed or can be an external Health & Safety Adviser. The approved Code of Practice which accompanies the Regulations suggests that the employment of external help should only take place if there is no relevant competent worker within the organisation. 

However, the appointment of an external Health and Safety Advisers does not absolve the employer from his general health and safety responsibilities. Two recent cases have highlighted this. The first involved a company which pleaded guilty to health and safety offences but stated that these offences were committed as a result of poor quality advice received from their external safety adviser. The court reiterated that the appointment of an external health and safety adviser did not remove the company`s responsibilities and it also emphasised that the choice of external adviser is important. The employer must ensure the competence of the external adviser. Both the company and the Health & Safety Adviser were fined and ordered to pay costs. 

Similarly in the second case both the company and its Health and Safety adviser were successfully prosecuted for collective and individual failures in respect of the carrying out of risk assessments. 

These cases serve as a reminder that the choice of any external adviser must be based on recognised and genuine health and safety competence. 

Posted on: 22/07/2011

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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