Employers must ensure they comply with a wide variety of requirements on health and safety and the environment. Many of these are specifically set out in law, while others are part of a broad range of guidelines on what is considered ‘best practice’.
An employer’s environmental obligations will depend on the type of business involved. Chemicals manufacturers, for example, will have to comply with specific requirements in terms of storing, handling, transporting and disposing of the chemicals. The aim of these is to protect the health of the employee and anyone else who may come into contact with dangerous materials, as well as to protect the environment.
Environmental regulations may be laid out by a local authority, by a public agency such as the Environment Agency, by the government or by one of the EU bodies. They may cover such things as disposal of computers and other electric items, or the burning of rubbish. Organisations have a duty not to pollute the surrounding area.
Employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment for their employees, and to protect the health and welfare of those employees and of other people who might be affected by their business. They must do all that is reasonably practicable to achieve this.
In order to do this, employers should carry out a risk assessment of the workplace, and put in place a plan to control the risks. They must provide employees with proper instruction and training. There are various other requirements, for example, protective equipment such as hats and safety spectacles must be provided, and employees who use a computer screen are entitled to an assessment to make sure they are using it properly. The employer must provide adequate drinking water, toilet facilities and washing facilities. Proper rests and breaks must be given, at least the minimum of 20 minutes every six hours, and employees are entitled to a certain amount of holidays every year. Employers must not allow employees to come into contact with asbestos unless they have been properly trained and equipped to do so. The employer should therefore carry out an inspection to see whether their premises contain asbestos, and if that asbestos is securely sealed.
The Health and Safety Executive website at www.hse.gov.uk, as does www.healthandsafetyatwork.com, provides more information on this, and other health and safety issues. It provides a useful set of case studies of risk assessments that employers in a variety of industries and occupations have undertaken, with examples of best practice for each.
The duty to protect health and welfare extends to part-time workers. Agency workers are also protected, and the employment agency has a duty to make sure their clients follow the law.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is the main legislation concerning health and safety in the workplace. This law is enforced by local authorities as well as by the Health and Safety executive.
Employers have a duty to report accidents and injuries at work, as well as certain dangerous situations that may have occurred, to the Health and Safety Executive.
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