Everything You Need to Know About Health and Safety at Work

managing health and safety at work can seem daunting

But it doesn't have to be...

Providing a safe working environment is important for all workplaces, from an office to a manufacturing site. Managing your employee's health and safety at work is important but it can seem daunting. It doesn’t have to be!

All it really means is, as an employer, you have a responsibility to protect your workforce, and visitors, from getting hurt or ill at work. This includes doing things like:

  • Appointing a health and safety competent person to recognise hazards and help you put sensible controls in place
  • Prepare a policy around health and safety at work
  • Complete risk assessments to look for any hazards
  • Speak to your workers about health and safety as well as providing information and training
  • Have the right facilities in your workplace, including toilets and sinks
  • Display the health and safety at work poster from HSE where your employees can read it or provide an equivalent leaflet that explains the laws and what workers and employers should do
  • Get insurance
  • Report accidents and illnesses

There are some more detailed laws around things like working hours, training and sick leave amongst a few. To help, here’s what some of those laws say, why they exist and what they mean for you as an employer…


Working hours:

This is all about the number of hours an employee can legally work without a break and how long there should be between workdays.

Why the law exists:

Having breaks during the day and between working days is important to make sure our mental and physical performance doesn’t decline as that can lead to risks such as:

  • Slower reactions
  • Reduced ability to process information
  • Memory lapses
  • Absent-mindedness
  • Decreased awareness
  • Lack of attention
  • Underestimation of risk
  • Reduced coordination
  • Errors and accidents
  • Ill-health and injury
  • Reduced productivity

What you need to do:

As an employer you need to make sure your team take regular breaks throughout the day, and have enough time between shifts, particularly if they are working overtime.

The law says you need to give employees one uninterrupted 20-minute rest break during a workday longer than six hours, at least 11 hours of rest between the end of the workday and the start of the next and 24 hours without work each week, or 48 hours each fortnight.


Employee training:

As an employer you need to provide training that allows your employees to safely carry out their roles while being able to avoid work injuries and illnesses.

Why the law exists:

According to HSE statistics in 2019/20 over 690,000 workers had a non-fatal injury while at work and over 520,000 took 7 days off as a result. This law is all about avoiding this.

What you need to do:

As an employer you need to train all your employees on health and safety in the workplace. For example, people carrying heavy items can trip, slip or hurt themselves so providing training on how to avoid these accidents is important to ensure their staff wellbeing. The HSE's guide is a great place to start if you’re unsure.


Display Screen Equipment:

Display Screen Equipment (DSE) includes any computer or display screen, including laptops and touch screen. Under the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992, as an employer you need to make sure your staff are given equipment that is safe to use.

Why the law exists:

Roughly 60% of the UK’s workforce use computers with internet access at work (Statista), and using computers too much, without breaks, or using equipment that hasn’t been set up correctly can lead to a few problems including:

  • Limb problems or backache caused by bad posture or unsupportive furniture
  • Repetitive strain injury (RSI) from carrying out the same tasks using a mouse and keyboard over and over
  • Vision problems, eye strain and headaches caused by screen usage and light levels

What you need to do:

As an employer you need to provide your employees with support to set up with their equipment and desk correctly and assess their workstations for risks. A desk set up correctly should allow employees to sit with their forearms horizontally, their eye level at the top of the screen, enough space and adequate lighting to see properly with no screen glare.

You also need to provide your employees with training on how to use their equipment correctly, and eye tests for employees if asked. For more advice around DSE equipment, check out our blog on digital wellbeing.


Sick Leave allowances:

As a business you legally have to give your employees time off sick if requested. You can only dismiss an employee who has been off due to long-term sickness (more than 4 weeks) as a last resort, after considering ways for them to return. You need to discuss with your employee ways they can come back, whether that’s in a different role, or on a part-time or flexible basis.

Why the law exists:

Going to work when we’re not at our best health, known as presenteeism, influences workplace productivity as whole. 89% of professionals had seen presenteeism in their organisation in 2020 (CIPD). Many employees may avoid taking time off work for fear of being made redundant.

What you need to do:

You need to give your employees time off sick if requested, though you don’t have a legal obligation to provide any full sick pay, or even any. Although if your employees have been ill for more than four days in a row, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) must be given and paid for up to 28 weeks if needed. You can’t force employees to use annual leave in place of sick leave.


Where to find more information:

Health and Safety Executive have a health and safety made simple guide, that goes through the basics you need for your business, from what the law says to how to write your health and safety policy. For more information about employee wellbeing, why not download our free guide?

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HSE – Non-fatal injuries at work in Great Britain
Statista – Employee using computers with internet access at work
CIPD – Managing the challenge of workforce presenteeism in the Covid-19 crisis