Health and Safety in the Workplace: Part 1
There are many things you need to know when you are running an office (or other type of business environment). A part of this is Health and Safety. But what exactly do you need to know for this?
The pieces of legislation you need to be familiar with are:
- The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA)
- The 'Six Pack' Regulations relating to HASAWA
- Electricity at Work Regulations 1989,
- Electrical equipment (safety) regulations 1994,
- Working time regulations 1998,
- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH, 2002),
- Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)
As you can see there is lots that you have to know about, so we have split them up into multiple posts. This one only covers the HASAWA and the 'Six Pack' Regulations.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA)
The first piece of legislation is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA), this Act sets out guidelines for safe working practices which then enables businesses to set out their own working practices in line with these. There are 84 sections of the Act1 which should be abided by. We'll only take a look at a few sections as these are the most relevant for an office environment.
Section 1 outlines the objectives of the Act. The three main objectives of the Act are:
- Securing the health, safety and welfare of persons at work;
- Protecting anyone within the premises even if they do not work for the business; and
- Controlling the keeping and use of explosive or highly flammable or otherwise dangerous substances, including general possession or acquisition of them;
- This sounds complicated but remember that not every business deals with hazardous materials.
To sum up, section 1 just details what is covered in the Act.
Section 2 outlines the duties to the employers towards the employees in regard to:
- Ensuring that machinery and other pieces of equipment are as safe as practically possible;
- Ensuring hazardous materials are handled and transported safely;
- Providing information, instruction, training and supervision to employees as necessary (and where reasonably possible);
- Making sure that any working environment, within reason, is safe for employees to be in, and also so that they can enter and leave in a safe way;
- Maintaining any buildings so that they are safe for employees to be within.
In summary, section 2 details what employers need to do in order to keep employees safe while they are at work. So long as the working environment is safe and training is provided then this should be OK.
Section 3 outlines health and safety for the self-employed which is the same as section 2, but for the employer not just the employee. Also employers need to keep a health and safety policy and maintain it so it is up to date. This is only compulsory if you have 5 or more employees, but it can be good practice to have one in place anyway.
Section 6 talks about the duty of any person who designs, manufactures, imports or supplies any item for use at work. In particular it;
- Ensures that it's designed and made in a way that's safe and doesn't harm anyone's health at any time, including when it's being used, cleaned or maintained by someone at work;
- It also states that you should perform testing and examination as necessary (to make sure it's safe);
- And that such steps are taken as are necessary to make sure that whoever uses the item is provided with enough information about the use for which it is designed, and about how to use it in a safe way, without risks to health, including when it is being dismantled or disposed of; and
- Providing information, where possible, about any defects to the equipment that could cause serious risks to health or safety.
Section 7 outlines the employee's duties as:
- Ensuring they take reasonable care for the health and safety of themselves and anyone else in the workplace who could be affected by their actions, or failure to act; and
- Co-operate with employers or other person in the workplace so far as necessary to enable them to perform their duties or requirements under the Act.
Section 8 is all of the above but in regards to any person in the working environment, whether they are employed by the business or not.
Section 10 creates two corporate bodies that perform the respective functions on behalf of the Crown. These are the Health and Safety Commissioner (HSC) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). However on 1st April 2008 these two bodies merged to become the HSE. The Executive is responsible for enforcement of the Act and regulations made under it, though the Secretary of State may transfer some of the duties to local government.
Some of the sections have been omitted, but you can find a full list of the sections (and the full act) here.
As well as the sections of the HASAWA there are other regulations regarding it.
The 'Six Pack' Regulations
No, not all employees must have a six pack These are actually six other regulations that directly link to the HASAWA.
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 generally go more in depth as to what employers are required to do to manage health and safety under the HASAWA. Like the HASAWA they apply to every work activity.
The main thing employers need to do under The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 is carry out risk assessments.
Employers with five or more employees need to record the significant findings of the risk assessment. Risk assessments should be straightforward in a simple workplace such as a typical office. It should only be complicated if it deals with serious hazards such as those on a nuclear power station, a chemical plant, laboratory or an oil rig.
Besides carrying out a risk assessment, employers also need to:
- make arrangements for implementing the health and safety measures identified as necessary by the risk assessment;
- appoint competent people (often themselves or company colleagues) to help them to implement the arrangements;
- set up emergency procedures;
- provide clear information and training to employees;
- work together with other employers sharing the same workplace.2
Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER 1998)
The PUWER 1998 regulations apply to any employer or self-employed worker who uses equipment at work, but not equipment used by the public.
PUWER covers all work equipment from office furniture through to complex machinery and company cars, it is also applicable if a company allows a worker to use their own equipment in the workplace (such as BYOD schemes).
All new machinery should carry a CE mark from its manufacturer to prove its compliance with safety laws. When a CE mark is not relevant, responsibility of the equipment's safety and up-keeping can fall to the business.
The main requirements of PUWER are for businesses to ensure that the equipment used is suitable for its purpose, maintained to be safe and not a risk to health and safety, they should also be inspected by a competent worker who should record the results.3
Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended) (MHOR)
MHOR requires the employer to apply control measures to prevent or reduce the risk of injury to workers from manual handling of loads.
The Regulations set out a three-step approach the employer should take:
- avoid the need for any manual handling involving risk of injury, where possible.
- This may include mechanisation, redesigning the tasks completed, or breaking down the loads into manageable units.
- the tasks;
- the loads to be lifted or carried, their weight and size;
- the working environment, such as the amount of working space, how it is organised, how much would have to be lifted and twisted; and
- the capabilities of the individual
Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (WHSWR)
WHSWR gives the minimum health and safety requirements for the workplace.
The Regulations do not apply to construction work sites, but they do apply to the design of work facilities and the equipment in buildings used as workplaces along with modifications and extensions of these buildings.
The WHSWR is mainly for use by the building designer. We'll only look at the regulations that are needed by most businesses run out of a building maintained by a landlord, where it is their responsibility to look after the overall building and the grounds it is situated in. For a full list of the regulations, check out AI Solutions' website here.
Regulations 1 to 4 and 13 were revoked by the Working at Height Regulations 2005.
Regulation 5 - Maintenance of workplace, and equipment, devices and systems. The employer and/or the person in control of the workplace must maintain the workplace and contents so that they remain safe and without risk to health.
Regulation 7 - Temperature of indoor workplaces. Indoor workplaces must be maintained at a 'comfortable' temperature that achieves a minimum temperature of 16oC for normal work, but may be a minimum of 13oC where severe physical effort is part of the work.
Regulation 8 - Lighting.The lighting levels within the workplace shall be maintained so that they do not cause risk to health or safety due to inadequate levels or the production of glare. Whenever possible there should be natural light. Particular care should be taken when deciding on the location of display screen equipment in relation to the light sources so that glare and reflection on the screen do not cause eyestrain.
Regulation 9 - Cleanliness and waste materials. The workplace should be maintained in a clean condition with waste materials only stored in designated, suitable receptacles. A cleaning regime should be established to ensure the cleanliness of the workplace and this should be appropriate to the activities being undertaken.
Regulation 11 - Workstations and seating. All workstations are required to be designed so that they are suitable for the work and the persons working there. It must allow free access and exit, particularly in the event of an emergency, and must allow for any assistance required, such as for a disabled person. A suitable seat must be provided if a person can perform the work in a seated position and, where necessary, footrests should be provided.
Regulation 12 - Condition of floors and traffic routes. Floors and traffic routes should be of adequate strength and the right type of surface whether for pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
Regulation 17 - Organisation of traffic routes.Traffic routes in a workplace must be suitable and organised in such a way that pedestrians and vehicles can move about safely. In particular there must be sufficient separation between vehicles and pedestrians where both use the same route. Also where pedestrian doors or routes open onto traffic routes there must be sufficient separation between them.
Regulation 20 - Sanitary conveniences. Sanitary conveniences shall be supplied that are suitable and sufficient, in that:
- they are adequately ventilated and lit
- they are kept clean and tidy at all times
- separate facilities should be provided for men and women, unless each convenience is situated in a separate room which may be locked from the inside
Regulation 23 - Accommodation of Clothing. Accommodation for outdoor clothing (e.g. coats) must be provided in addition to storage of personal and work clothing, where special work clothing is required. This may include facilities for the drying of work clothing.
Regulation 25 - Facilities for Rest and to Eat Meals. Suitable facilities should be provided for workers to rest away from any contaminants or other hazards. These facilities should include appropriate seating. Areas to eat meals in a clean environment shall also be provided. Office workers may use their workstations as rest and eating facilities, if they will not be disturbed by others.5
Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 place a duty on every employer to ensure that suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) is provided to employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work.
PPE is defined in the regulations as "all equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work which protects them against one or more risks to their health and safety". PPE would include such things as hard hats, eye protection, safety harnesses, life jackets and safety footwear.
The Regulations also impose requirements with respect to:
- compatibility of items of personal protective equipment where it is necessary to wear or use more than one item simultaneously.
- the making, review and changing of assessments in relation to the choice of personal protective equipment.
- the maintenance (including replacement and cleaning as appropriate) of personal protective equipment.
- the provision of accommodation for personal protective equipment.
- the provision of information, instruction and training.
- ensuring personal protective equipment is used.6
Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
The Health & Safety (Display Screen Equipment(DSE)) Regulations 1992 implement the requirements of the European Directive on minimum health and safety requirements for work with display screen equipment.
Definitions of screen equipment
Regulation 1 contains several important definitions: 'Display screen equipment' means any alphanumeric or graphic display screen, regardless of the display process involved.
Certain display screen equipment is specifically excluded from the Regulations:
- display screen equipment contained in drivers cabs or control cabs for vehicles or machinery
- display screen equipment on board a means of transport
- display screen equipment intended mainly for public operation
- portable systems not in prolonged use
- calculators, cash registers or equipment having a small data or measurement display required for the direct use of the equipment
- window typewriters (displaying only a few lines of text).
Regulation 2 requires employers to carry out a 'suitable and sufficient analysis' of all workstations provided for use by users or operators - in other words, a risk assessment. The principal risks to be looked at for DSE work are defined as:
- physical (musculoskeletal) problems
- visual fatigue; and
- mental stress.
The assessment must be reviewed when matters change and identified risks must be reduced to the lowest extent reasonably practicable.
Where users are required by the employer to work at home on DSE, an assessment must be carried out.Minimum requirements
Regulation 3 requires that all DSE workstations must meet the Schedule of Minimum Requirements.
Regulation 4 requires employers to ensure that users get periodic breaks or changes of activity away from the display screen equipment. Ideally, this should be achieved through job design, so that changes of activity and posture occur naturally. Where this is not possible, deliberate breaks must be introduced.
Breaks should occur before the onset of fatigue and, if formal breaks, should be short and frequent rather than long. It is better for users to be able to take breaks as they feel the need, rather than having a set pattern.
The employer should ensure, through management and supervision, that adequate breaks are being taken.
Eyesight tests and corrective appliances
Regulation 5 concerns the provision of eye and eyesight tests and payment for certain types of corrective appliance (or glasses).
All users are entitled to ask for an eye and eyesight test under this regulation. This must be provided, by the employer, free of charge.
Where the test shows the need for a special corrective appliance, the employer must fund the basic cost.
Training and Information
Regulation 6 requires the employer to provide all users with adequate training on the workstation - this should include how to arrange the workstation safely and suitably, and what to do if the user develops any work-related health problems.
Regulation 7 requires employers to provide information to users and operators on risks identified by the assessment, steps taken to reduce the risks, and, where appropriate, the systems for breaks and for eyesight tests.7
This is only a brief glance at what employers need to know about health and safety in the workplace. Please do not use this as a guide as to what you need to know.
You can read Part 2 here.
1. Found on Wikipedia
2. Found here hse publications
3.Found on Wikipedia
4.Found on Worksmart
5. All information found on Ai Solutions Ltd
6. Found on Wikipedia
7. Found on PCS.org
The Company Wizard is not affiliated with any of the websites mentioned in this post and cannot be held liable for any misinformation gained from visiting them.