Understanding your Health and Safety duties as an employer

What are My Health and Safety Duties as an Employer?

If you’re an employer in the UK, and employ more than five staff, you are required by law to have a health and safety policy in place. This document sets out how you are going to manage health and safety in your workplace.

As each workplace is different your policy will be unique to what you do and the tasks that are undertaken.

With this in mind, let’s look at your responsibilities in regard to health and safety. At the end of this article, you’ll be clear as to what they are, and you’ll have a clear path forward to implement a health and safety policy that keeps you clear of legal issues, and you’ll be protecting your employees from harm which in turn, makes your organisation more productive.

Legal Framework for Health and Safety

To understand your responsibilities, it is important to understand the legal framework. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 sets out your responsibilities and the legal penalties should you be found negligent regarding health and safety compliance.

Understand that you can be held accountable personally should harm occur to one or more of your employees, and it was deemed that you were at fault for injuries sustained. Penalties take the form of fines, often hefty ones, and should the injuries and breaches of health and safety be considered severe, prison sentences.

As the business owner or CEO, it is considered that the buck stops with you.

Your Responsibilities to Health and Safety as an Employer

In essence your responsibilities are this:

  • To keep your employees safe and free from harm in the workplace, implementing control measures that are reasonably practicable. This includes but not limited to the tasks they carryout and the workplace generally.
  • To keep visitors to your workplace safe and free from harm. Visitors includes but not limited to customers and clients, auditors, sales reps, and contractors.
So how is this accomplished?

To help you fulfil your responsibilities the Health and Safety Executive has published guidance and code of practices to help you put your health and safety policy together.  It sets out what you need in place to be compliant.


Exploring this in more depth we discover you need the following:

A Competent Person

You need to appoint a competent person to keep health and safety on track. For smaller organisations this could be an individual, it could be you, but for larger organisations you may need a team. It is good practice to make a budget available and ensure opportunities for training are present.

Risk Assessment

Every task undertaken in your workplace must be assessed for risk. This is handled by a health and safety risk assessment which identifies hazards (the possible sources of injury that can cause harm and what that harm looks like. E.g. electric shock, electrocution) and the risk (the likelihood of an incident occurring).
Once complete it should be clear what you need to do to mitigate the risk. This process is referred to as control measures and all staff should be trained and familiarised with any workplace risk assessments.

Safe System of Work

Following on from the risk assessment and risk mitigation, a safe system of work must be developed. This sets out how the task is to be accomplished safely, following the control measures identified in the risk assessment.

Training and Education 

Training isn’t limited to the team that handles health and safety. All staff should be trained to the necessary level needed to perform their duties safely.  This includes educating staff on workplace procedures, such as off-limit areas, being mindful of hazards like moving vehicles, and actions to take in emergencies, such as fires.  Training should be one of the control measures identified in a risk assessment. A good example of this is manual handling which educates employees on the risks of lifting and carrying loads.

Plant and Equipment Safety

It is part of the health and safety framework that both plant (premises) and equipment used are safe.   Every aspect of any plant/machinery/equipment used for work activities are subject to planned preventative maintenance under PUWER (provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998).  This includes periodic inspections of  fixed electrical wiring, PAT Testing, LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998) inspections, Vehicle MOT and servicing etc



It is important warning and informational signs are present throughout where necessary, together with other signs such as fire exits and fire extinguisher location points.

Substance Control:

Manage and control exposure to hazardous substances, CoSHH assessments will need to be produced for any product/substance deemed as hazardous to health.


Health Surveillance

Depending on the nature of the industry, the health of your employees may need to be periodically monitored. For example, if your staff work with toxic or poisonous materials, then it’s likely you will need to develop health surveillance measures.

Facilities :

This includes ensuring that toilet, washing, and drinking water provision is present and suitable in each workplace, and that the working environment is fit for purpose. I.e. well lit, ventilated, and heated.

First Aid:

A first aid policy is required, outlining the provision of first aid in your workplace, such as the number of first aiders needed and their required level of training. Responsibilities are assigned as to checking first aid boxes and where they are situated throughout your workplace, and how first aid incidents are recorded and reported and to whom.

Fire Risk Assessment:

Like first aid, fire risk is a big area that needs to be assessed and will need to be addressed within your H&S policy. Responsible people such as fire marshals need to be appointed and every member of staff needs to know what to do in the event of a fire. The policy should encompass fire drills, fire extinguisher use and inspection, training, emergency lighting and fire alarm testing schedule as a minimum.

Engagement and Culture:

It is important that you implement a culture of safety in the workplace and devise systems that allow employees to voice their concerns. It is good practice to hold regular health and safety meetings and encourage two-way communication.

Contractors and Visitors:

You are responsible for keeping everyone in the workplace as safe as possible and this extends to contractors and other visitors. It is good practice to have policies that focus on this topic and that your staff are well briefed on how to implement them.


As an employer, embracing your health and safety duties are not just about legal compliance; it’s about fostering a culture of safety and responsibility. By being proactive and diligent in these areas, you not only ensure compliance with UK law but also demonstrate a commitment to the wellbeing of your employees. This approach leads to a more engaged, productive workforce and can prevent costly incidents and legal consequences.



Getting Started

As you have no doubt deduced this is no small undertaking and that’s where we can help. We offer a range of training courses and consultation services that will quickly bring you up to speed and make your workplace safer.

About Us

Westminster Compliance was established to provide a more personal, proactive health and safety consultancy that would keep businesses working and compliant with ever-changing legislation.

Our presentations and training are interesting and fun because we want our clients to buy into health and safety, and definitely not to see it as a boring, unnecessary nuisance. We know that our best service is provided to small and medium sized organisations and have developed a system that works in most industries.
We stick with straightforward language, keeping away from jargon, and do not make ridiculous promises. Most importantly, we realise that we are working with human beings.

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