Health & safety compliance … what’s involved?
It is obvious if you do not understand health and safety
law you are unlikely to comply. Unfortunately it is often complex
and detailed. The main Act which forms the basis of health and
safety law is the Health & Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974. In
summary that Act sets out the general duties which employers have
towards employees and others who are effected by their business,
but also the duties the employees have to themselves and to each
other. Additionally there are very many regulations detail more
Many regulations are supported by Approved Codes of
Practice. These set out practical examples of good practice and
illustrate what is required in particular circumstances. Approved
Codes of Practice, however, have a special legal status. If an
employer is prosecuted for a breach of health and safety law, and
it is proved that it has not followed any relevant provisions
contained in an Approved Code of Practice, the Court will be
obliged to find the company guilty unless it can show that it has
complied with the law in some other but equally good way. This is
very difficult in practice to demonstrate.
In addition the Health & Safety Executive produce
guidance on specific subjects. Some of this guidance can be very
specific and relate to a particular process, or can be a more
general attempt to tackle health and safety problems within a
particular industry. In essence this is technical advice. The
following of such guidance is not generally compulsory but it would
normally be the case that following guidance will be enough to
demonstrate compliance with the law.
Guidance can be important in a particular context. Arguably
the most important context is the Corporate Manslaughter and
Corporate Homicide Act 2007. Here the jury is permitted, when it
considers whether an organisation has been in gross breach of its
duty of care, to have regard to any health and safety guidance that
is relevant. Non compliance with such guidance is likely to weigh
heavily with the jury.
In practical terms all these facets of health and safety law
need to be considered by any organisation. Any specific guidance
which is relevant to a particular industry should always be sought
out and considered. The HSE website is a very good source for this
Posted on: 20/07/2011
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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