Health and safety regulations: What you need to know

Blogs 4 Apr 2022

Whether it's your risk assessments or training requirements, brush up on your health and safety knowledge with five important areas to remember.

This content was last reviewed in April 2024. 

No matter what business you’re in, complying with health and safety regulations is a priority when you’re working for yourself so that you stay on the right side of the law.  

FSB Health and Safety share five areas to consider when making sure you’re compliant and up to date, as well as where you can find additional support.  

What is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974? 

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is the key legislation relating to occupational health and safety in England, Wales and Scotland. It outlines the duties you have as an employer towards your employees and the public, in addition to the duties employees have towards themselves and each other. It also relates to the self-employed.  

For businesses in Northern Ireland, the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 is the primary piece of legislation that covers the duties and responsibilities for employers. There are also regulations on the use of work equipment, manual handling, personal protective equipment, display screen equipment, and more.

The Health and Safety Executive has further guidance for small businesses and the self-employed. 

All employers must be compliant with health and safety rules, or your business may face fines or even prosecution. Failing to follow regulations puts everyone at greater risk. 
Not only is it the law, but non-compliance can be costly. Without effective risk management strategies in place, you may increase your chances of claims against you. Whether it’s slips and trips or accidents with tools, it’s essential to take steps to improve your risk management.  

So, what should you keep in mind when reviewing health and safety practices in your business? 

Do you have an up-to-date health and safety policy? 

You must have a health and safety policy by law, outlining your approach to health and safety. It should cover how you will manage health and safety and who has what responsibilities. For example, who is responsible for first aid? 

Share it with your team so everyone knows what is expected of them and how you’re keeping the workplace safe. You must also display the health and safety law poster, or provide employees with a copy.  

Five or more employees? You’ll need to have your policy in writing. Even if you don’t, it’s still helpful to have it on paper. FSB members can download a template from FSB Legal and Business Hub.

Is your risk assessment up to date? 

A comprehensive and regularly reviewed risk assessment is essential. This is where you identify, manage and mitigate the potential hazards in your workplace. It looks at the risks that you, your team, the public or those visiting your premises might face. Areas to consider include: 

  • Fire safety 
  • Food safety 
  • Hazardous substances 
  • Safe working practices 

Have you provided adequate training? 

Making sure both you and your team are up to scratch on health and safety training is essential. FSB members can access on-demand health and safety training videos through the FSB Legal Hub, covering topics such as: 

  • Working at heights in the construction industry  
  • First aid at work 
  • Food safety basics 
  • Emergency planning 

Industry-specific regulations 

The legislation you’ll need to adhere to - and the potential risks you’ll face - as a shop owner will be vastly different than if you’re on a construction site or regularly handling hazardous substances and chemicals. 

For example: 

  • Catering and hospitality – main risks include slips and trips, manual handling accidents, and contact dermatitis 
  • Cleaning – control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH) with regards to cleaning chemicals 
  • Construction – The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 covers what those in the construction industry must do to protect themselves and anyone else from harm 

The Health and Safety Executive provides full guidance on what you need to consider depending on your industry, as well as the legislation that applies. This is also one to watch if you’re adapting or expanding your business into new areas, for instance, if you’re using machinery or equipment that you haven’t used previously. 

If you’re unsure, FSB members can call our 24/7 legal advice line for support from a health and safety specialist.  

Accident and illness reporting 

Should the worst happen, you need to be prepared to handle the matter in a compliant way and follow the right procedures. Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR), you must report certain workplace injuries, near-misses, and work-related diseases to the Health and Safety Executive. HSE has detailed guidance relating to what should be recorded and/or reported.  

More than 10 employees? You must keep an accident book to record incidents. This will also help you to better manage risks in your workplace.  

Stay in the loop 

Any changes to health and safety laws are introduced throughout the year on 6 April and 1 October. These are known as ‘common commencement dates’.  Health and safety guidance and template documents are available to members on the FSB Legal and Business Hub. As well as the FSB health and safety advice line for general telephone advice, members can also access health and safety consultancy advice and services on a fee-paying basis.  

Take the risk out of protecting your business

Whatever your sector, FSB Health and Safety takes the stress out of compliance. With workplace health and safety advice from industry experts, as well as online documentation and on-demand training, you’re in safe hands.

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