Health and safety at work
All employees, whether full-time, part-time, temporary or permanent, have rights and responsibilities concerning their health and safety at work.
The same rules apply if youre doing work experience, charity work, an apprenticeship, or if you're a mobile or home worker.
Health and Safety at work
Every employee has a responsibility towards health and safety. H&S inspector Norman McRitchie explains what you should do to keep your workplace safe.
You have the right to:
- Work in places where all the risks to your health and safety are properly controlled;
- Stop working and leave the area if you think you are in danger;
- Inform your employer about health and safety issues or concerns;
- Contact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or your local authority if you still have concerns without getting into trouble;
- Join a trade union and be a safety representative;
- A rest break of at least 20 minutes if you work more than six hours at a stretch and to an annual period of paid leave.
- Take care of your own health and safety and that of people who may be affected by what you do (or do not do);
- Co-operate with others (e.g. your employer) , and not interfere with, or misuse, anything provided for your health, safety or welfare.
Your employer must tell you:
- About risks to your health and safety from current or proposed working practices
- About things or changes that may harm or affect your health and safety;
- How to do your job safely;
- What is done to protect your health and safety;
- How to get first-aid treatment;
- What to do in an emergency.
Some of these are only legal requirements if there are five or more employees in the organisation.
Your employer must provide, free of charge:
- Information/training to do your job safely;
- Protection for you at work when necessary (such as clothing, shoes or boots, eye and ear protection, gloves, masks etc);
- Health checks if there is a danger of ill health because of your work;
- Regular health checks if you work nights, and a check before you start.
If you are self employed you are responsible for providing your own first-aid arrangements, training, protective equipment and health checks, and for organising your own working time.
Your employer must provide you with the following information:
- Health and safety law: What you should know. Available either as a leaflet or a poster displayed at your workplace, this should give the contact details of people who can help;
- Their health and safety policy statement;
- An up-to-date Employers' Liability (compulsory insurance) certificate should be visible in your workplace.
I've been injured at work, what do I do?
Tell your manager or safety representative, however trivial it seems. They should record the details in a workplace accident book. You should also report incidents where someone could have been hurt, even if no one actually was. This is called a 'near miss incident' and your employer may need to report it to the HSE if you're in England, Wales or Scotland, or the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI).
They should also report serious work-related accidents, diseases and dangerous incidents, including any injury that stops someone doing their normal work for three or more days. Records must be kept for at least three years, and employees who were involved have the right to request a copy.
I'm worried about safety at my workplace. Who can I talk to?
Your line manager, health and safety representative or, if you have one, a trade union representative. Contact the HSE's Infoline if you're in England, Scotland or Wales, or HSENI's One-2-One helpline for Northern Ireland, to report serious concerns about your employer, or just to get some confidential advice.
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 says you can't be sacked for reporting a genuine health and safety concern. This law covers permanent employees, contract workers, trainees and agency staff, with no minimum qualifying period and no age restrictions, but doesn't apply to volunteers, the intelligence services or the armed forces. You can make an anonymous complaint if you prefer.
Don't I have to do everything my boss says?
No. If you're asked to do something you have genuine reason to believe is unsafe, explain your worries to your line manager or health and safety representative. You have the right to refuse to carry out unsafe work without losing your pay or your job.
Thanks to the CAB for help producing this article. Information provided in part by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
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