Health & safety compliance … what’s involved?
It is obvious if you do not understand health and safetylaw you are unlikely to comply. Unfortunately it is often complexand detailed. The main Act which forms the basis of health andsafety law is the Health & Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974. Insummary that Act sets out the general duties which employers havetowards employees and others who are effected by their business,but also the duties the employees have to themselves and to eachother. Additionally there are very many regulations detail morespecific requirements.
Many regulations are supported by Approved Codes ofPractice. These set out practical examples of good practice andillustrate what is required in particular circumstances. ApprovedCodes of Practice, however, have a special legal status. If anemployer is prosecuted for a breach of health and safety law, andit is proved that it has not followed any relevant provisionscontained in an Approved Code of Practice, the Court will beobliged to find the company guilty unless it can show that it hascomplied with the law in some other but equally good way. This isvery difficult in practice to demonstrate.
In addition the Health & Safety Executive produceguidance on specific subjects. Some of this guidance can be veryspecific and relate to a particular process, or can be a moregeneral attempt to tackle health and safety problems within aparticular industry. In essence this is technical advice. Thefollowing of such guidance is not generally compulsory but it wouldnormally be the case that following guidance will be enough todemonstrate compliance with the law.
Guidance can be important in a particular context. Arguablythe most important context is the Corporate Manslaughter andCorporate Homicide Act 2007. Here the jury is permitted, when itconsiders whether an organisation has been in gross breach of itsduty of care, to have regard to any health and safety guidance thatis relevant. Non compliance with such guidance is likely to weighheavily with the jury.
In practical terms all these facets of health and safety lawneed to be considered by any organisation. Any specific guidancewhich is relevant to a particular industry should always be soughtout and considered. The HSE website is a very good source for thisinformation.
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.