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Legal responsibilities

Health & Safety Provision

The main responsibility for ensuring the health and safety of workers, contractors, and the public rests on employers (sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974), and specifically the Directors. In addition to the common law requirement of duty of care to employees and others on the premises, duties are expanded and explained in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

You must have a written safety policy if you have 5 or more employees (The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 - Section 2(3)). The health and safety policy should be made available to employees and anyone affected by work activities, such as contractors and visitors.

Companies with less than 5 employees are not obliged to have a health and safety policy. However you may be required to justify your procedures and safe systems of work to the enforcement authorities in the event of an accident or incident. You are required to carry out risk assessments but do not have to record the findings unless there are significant risks to health.

Substantially these requirements include the need to actively assess and manage risks, as well as communication and consultation with workers. However there are many detailed specific requirements such as the appointment of a competent responsible person.

Infringements of Health & Safety law are criminal offences, punishable by a fine levied on one or more Directors or indeed imprisonment.

Registering your business

Every business that has employees must register with either the local Environmental Health Department or the Health and Safety Executive, depending on type of business. New businesses must register before beginning operation.

Employer’s Liability

The Employer's Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 requires that all businesses that employ people have Employer's Liability Insurance. This ensures that the employer is properly covered for legal liability in the event of an employee being injured at work.

Over recent years Employer's Liability claims have soared, fuelled by an increasingly litigious society and more onerous interpretation of the employer's duty of care by the courts. This trend, exacerbated by issues such as asbestosis, has made Employer's Liability insurance one of the most expensive and difficult types of insurance to obtain.

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