THE REASONS FOR HEALTH AND SAFETY, YOUR DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

All businesses are responsible for developing and following a health and safety policy to keep employees and the public out of danger. It’s also a legal requirement under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) and other relevant acts. However, some companies fail to comply with this legislation to avoid paying health and safety costs. 

Being found guilty of breaching the regulation can cost far more than it would cost to comply, as you could face staggering fines, legal costs, compensation, sick pay, and more. Health and safety fines alone can cost £62,770 more than the cost of compliance for an SME. (Small or medium-sized enterprise).

On top of this, negligent health and safety management can result in accidents, detrimental effects to the firm’s reputation, and even imprisonment.

The total cost of fines distributed for health and safety breaches in 2020 amounted to £23,964,364, which has decreased by 26% since 2016. However, some of the industries involved have seen an increase in cases.

The average fine across all industries has decreased from £115,440 in 2016, to £106,984 in 2020. The number of fines has also been reduced by 20.3%, from 281 to 224.

Contrary to this, some industries have seen a significant rise in the average cost of a breach.

Following the significant surge in total fines, the services industry’s average fine has risen from £96,828 to £140,768. The number of fines handed out to service-based businesses has also increased by 80.6%.

Although the number of fines within the manufacturing industry was just over a third of the amount in 2016, the average fine increased from £112,111 to £139,949, which accounts for the sector’s high overall charge.

The construction industry’s average fine also climbed from £74,231 to £112,953, despite the number of fines slightly decreasing since 2016.

Accounting for almost half of the overall total fines, the construction and services industries were also responsible for 52.6% and 36.8% of the prison sentences for HSE cases in 2020.

One company was fined £2,000,000 and ordered to pay £30,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2 (1)  of the HSWA. The investigation occurred after a worker suffered a fatal injury whilst cleaning waste-water pipes. The specialist industrial services company, based in the midlands, was found to have recognised the risks of operating high-pressure water jetting equipment but had failed to put in place the appropriate measures to mitigate the risk. 

A relocation and refurbishment company was found guilty of breaching Section 3 (1) of the HSWA after a worker fell from height and became seriously injured. The company was fined £1,100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £68,116.18. The investigation found that the London-based business had failed to ensure those not in their employment were not exposed to risks. 

Another construction logistics provider was fined £850,000 and instructed to pay £11,750 in costs, after pleading guilty to a breach of Section 2 (1) of HSWA. This fine followed an incident where a traffic marshal was fatally injured by a reversing lorry. The investigation found that the firm had failed to identify and manage the risks involved and put a safe system of work in place.

HSE revealed that between 2017/18 and 2019/20, an average of 610,000 workers had been injured in workplace accidents. Another 559,000 workers suffered a new case of ill health, which they believed to be caused or worsened by their work. 

In 2018/19, the total costs of workplace self-reported injuries and ill health was £16.2 billion, with employers bearing £3.2 billion of this amount. Ill health accounted for 66% of this cost, with injuries contributing 34%, due to it causing more time off.

Across 2019/20, there was an estimate of 38.8 million working days lost due to work-related ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries. Stress, depression, or anxiety accounted for 17.9 million days lost due to work-related ill health, and musculoskeletal disorders caused 8.9 million days.

The cost of compliance is far lower than the average fine. HSE data on the expense required for the average company to meet health and safety guidelines, factoring in inflation since the study was published.

Yearly health and safety costs for an SME equal an average of £44,214, or £62,770 less than the average breach fine in 2020 of £106,984. For a small business with fewer than 50 staff, the yearly cost of compliance decreases to an average of £6,687, a huge £100,297 less than the average fine.

To fulfil your duty of care as an employer and avoid facing these fiscal and litigation consequences, you need to complete specific tasks, including:

  • Creating a health and safety policy
  • Conducting risk assessment
  • Consulting your workers on health and safety
  • Providing safety training

If your business has five or more employees, you’ll need to appoint a health and safety competent person, which could be yourself, an existing employee, or a third-party company, such as Stagesafe. 

The various costs associated with breaching health and safety laws can have an ongoing financial impact on your business. By complying with the relevant regulations, you can lower your outgoing costs, protect your business’s image, and provide a safe work environment.

WHO ARE YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR?

You are responsible for the health and safety of:

1. People who work for you
2. Visitors to your event (whether the public or invited guests)
3. Contractors

It is important to note that “people who work for you” also includes volunteers – payment isn’t a requirement to health and safety.

1. MORAL REASONS

We should not be letting employees become ill or injured in the workplace. It costs society upwards of £14 billion every year to help people recover from workplace accidents. We all know we have to provide a safe place to work, but once we have ticked the box, that doesn’t mean we can simply ignore it afterwards. We have to ensure everyone is on board with our safe working methods, getting them involved in policymaking, risk management and developing safe working procedures will ensure they are fully engaged in our methods.

2. FINANCIAL REASONS

There can be some investment responsibilities here, but if we measure the ‘cost versus the consequence’ we can determine the level of financial investment required. This can include training courses, newer and better work equipment or machines, or simple information, instruction and supervision that doesn’t have to cost the earth can make a big difference to help towards working safely and efficiently.

Any accident in the workplace will have a financial consequence, a small accident can result in lost time to the business which can inadvertently affect productivity and profits. Investigation time can take people away from their normal day to day jobs, people may need to be trained to replace the injured person, others may have to increase their workload to cover the injured person and so we can see how we come up with the £14 billion figure.

3. LEGAL REASONS

We have to follow statute law, the Acts and Regulations derived by Parliament that are provided for us to set our own health and safety objectives and follow to ensure we are meeting the compliance needs of legislation and to avoid criminal and/or civil prosecutions and convictions.

The employer is legally responsible for welfare, health and safety in the workplace and we use the term, ‘so far as is reasonably practicable,’ which is why we can set our own objectives otherwise known as ‘goal-setting safety management, so as long as what we do is compliant, our workplaces should be safe places to work.

Bear in mind the new sentencing guidelines for all prosecutions, we have already seen huge rises in prosecutions and fines for company directors for failing their workforce in health and safety. For example, The Merlin group, the owners of Alton Towers were fined £5million for a safety failure that resulted in two people suffering amputations following the ‘Smiler’ ride incident. Smaller businesses are seeing more six-figure fines for minimal safety breaches because the potential of harm was much greater than the incident that occurred.

Your employer's duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act1974 (HASAWA) is to provide a safe and healthy workplace, and this includes:

  • a safe system of work;
  • a safe place of work;
  • safe equipment, plant and machinery;
  • safe and competent people working alongside you, because employers are also liable for the actions of their staff and managers;
  • carrying out risk assessments as set out in regulations, and taking steps to eliminate or control these risks;
  • informing workers fully about all potential hazards associated with any work process, chemical substance or activity, including providing instruction, training, information and supervision;
  • appointing a 'competent person' responsible for health and safety (competent persons, such as a head of health and safety, oversee safety management, oversee safety inspections, and liaise with staff safety reps);
  • consulting with workplace safety representatives (if a union is recognised, your employer must set up and attend a workplace safety committee if two or more safety reps request one); and
  • provide adequate facilities for staff welfare at work such as toilets, hand washing facilities, cloakrooms, lockers, drinking water, a place to eat food, make drinks, take shelter and rest.
  • provide any personal protective equipment and clothing
  • provide Employers Liability Insurance
  • make adequate first aid provision 
  • ensure adequate fire safety and training provision
  • provide health screening in some instances

All provisions must be made free of charge to employees and to regulatory standards.

DUTY OF CARE

As an employer or event organiser or promotor, you have a duty of care to your employees and event visitors.

This also means you’re required to take all necessary precautions to ensure the physical and mental wellbeing of your staff. It’s worth noting the employers’ responsibilities for health & safety also extends to anyone in their building, venue or site—including visitors, clients and contractors.

An employer’s duty of care also extends to mental health. The Health and Safety at Work Act requires you to assess mental health work-related issues to measure the levels of risk to staff.

There are many things that could cause employees to experience work-related stress or ill health. It may stem from over-working, inadequate training, harassment or job insecurity.

EMPLOYEES HEALTH AND SAFETY DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

All workers are entitled to work in environments where risks to their health and safety are properly controlled. Under health and safety law, the primary responsibility for this is down to employers.

Workers must co-operate with employers and co-workers to help everyone meet their legal requirements.

As a worker, if you have specific queries or concerns relating to health and safety in your workplace, talk to your employer, manager/supervisor or a health and safety representative.

You’re most important responsibilities as an employee are:

  • to take reasonable care of your own health and safety
  • if possible to avoid wearing jewellery or loose clothing if operating machinery
  • if you have long hair or wear a headscarf, make sure it's tucked out of the way as it could get caught in machinery
  • your Duty of Care is to take reasonable care not to put other people - fellow employees and members of the public - at risk by what you do or don't do in the course of your work
  • to co-operate with your employer, making sure you get proper training and you understand and follow the company's health and safety policies
  • not to interfere with or misuse anything that's been provided in the interests of health, safety or welfare
  • to report any injuries, strains or illnesses you suffer as a result of doing your job, your employer may need to change the way you work
  • to tell your employer if something happens that might affect your ability to work, like becoming pregnant or suffering an injury - because your employer has legal responsibility for your health and safety, they may need to suspend you while they find a solution to the issue or problem, but you will normally be paid if this happens
  • if you drive or operate machinery, you have a responsibility to tell your employer if you take medication that makes you drowsy -  if you have, they should temporarily move you to another job if they have one for you to do.