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Health and safety

Health and Safety

The main legislation covering health and safety at work is in the 1974 Act. This Act establishes the Health & Safety Commission which takes over the supervision and promotion of health and safety at work.

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The Health & Safety Executive acts as an enforcement arm for the commission and is regionalised. The Health & Safety Executive has appointed Inspectors with the powers given to it to enter premises if there is a dangerous situation to take Police Officers with them. They have the power to make examinations and investigations to take photographs, samples, remove articles or substances and inspect all the facilities in relation to health and safety. So, they have extremely wide powers investigating issues of health & safety.

If an Inspector believes that the Company is contravening a statutory provision, they have the power to issue an improvement notice which gives instructions for the person to sort out the contravention and he has got to do it within 21 days. This is referred to as an improvement notice. If however the Inspector considers that there is a contravention which risks a serious personal injury, then he can issue what is referred to as a Prohibition Notice under Section 22 of the Health & Safety at Work Act. Briefly this gives him the power to stop work on a particular object or area if he believes that people are at serious risks. Actually, any such Orders can be appealed against and be enforced through the Courts.

What is more genuinely important to employees and employers is their general duty to ensure that as far as reasonably practicable, their health, safety and welfare at work and others is being maintained.

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This means in simple terms that the employee is equally responsible to ensure their own health and safety as the employer is to ensure a safe place and safe system of work.

The employer has other specific duties placed on him such as to ensure sufficient information, instruction and training and supervision occurs, to ensure that machinery equipment and the building is maintained to be in such a condition it is safe and without risks to health, to ensure a safe working environment for his employees as far as reasonably practicable.

Now referring specifically to employment law matters and how they relate to health & safety cases, under the Employment Rights Act Section 44, an employee should not be subjected to a detriment by any acts or failure to act by his employer on the grounds that he is a health & safety representative or a member of safety committee or he has been designated by the employer to carry out such activities in connection with or preventing all reducing risks to health and safety at work or where it is brought to the employer’s intention by reasonable means and circumstances connected with health and safety at work which he believes to be harmful or potential harmful to health and safety or in circumstances imminent danger which he could not reasonably be expected to avert, he left or proposed to leave or whilst the danger persists, refuse to return to his place of work or any dangerous part of his place of work.

Any employer who believes he has suffered a detriment contrary to Section 44 may bring a complaint before the Employment Tribunal within 3 months and if the complaint is upheld, the Tribunal can make a declaration and award compensation to the Claimant.

It may be that this will only relate to a very small proportion of claims. However, it is useful to bear in mind in situations that not necessarily obviously equate to machinery for example, I am aware of a case recently where a young lady was allegedly sexually harassed by a male. She complained about the male and the male was disciplined and she requested the male to move. The employers refused to move the male although they had the power to do so and she felt threatened by that male and was unable to continue working in that location. On first sight, one would wonder what that has to do with health and safety as it is more appropriate under sex discrimination. However, it also relates to her health and safety as she was in danger by remaining in that location and she was not protected within her working environment.

It is unlawful to dismiss someone in circumstances as described above which is under the Employment Rights Act Section 100. This form of dismissal is referred to as automatic unfair dismissal and carries a higher premium of a basic award at the Employment Tribunal.

You do not need a year’s service to make a claim in relation to health and safety and victimisation on the grounds of health and safety under the Employment Rights Act.

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If you are considering going to an Employment Tribunal then see our Employment Tribunal pages.
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If you are losing your job due to Misconduct or Gross Misconduct, visit our Misconduct or Gross Misconduct pages.
If you are losing your job due to Capability then visit our Capability pages.
If you think you may be suffering from disability discrimination then visit our disability discrimination pages.
If you are being asked to sign a Compromise Agreement, then visit our Compromise Agreement pages.
If you are being put on Garden Leave then please see our Garden Leave pages

The site author/owner has endeavoured to give clear information to benefit the reader. The information is no substitute for obtaining specific advice about any claim you may have from a person qualified to give it. The examples, and circumstances described etc bear no relation to any actual case and any resemblance to real circumstances is purely accidental and unintentional. The site author/owner accepts no liability for any mistake, error or inconsistency in the text and the reader should ALWAYS OBTAIN specific advice about his/her own situation. In order to assist the reader, you can give your details so that a qualified advisor can call you free of charge and assist you further via CLAIM EVALUATOR