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Health & Safety at Work: Your Rights Explained

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 27 Jul 2020 | comments*Discuss
Employer Employee Risk Responsibilities

All workers are entitled to work in an environment that is reasonably safe. Primary responsibility for ensuring health and safety in the work place is down to employers. However employees also have some responsibilities.

Your Employer's responsibilities

Employers have a number of responsibilities to ensure the health and safety of their employees. These include:
  • Assess any risks and put in place precautions to reduce them
  • Explain any risks and how to avoid them to employees
  • Provide employees, for free, with any training required for them to safely do their job
  • Give employees, for free, any equipment or protective clothing required for them to safely do their job, and ensure that equipment is properly looked after or replaced when necessary
  • Provide access to toilets, washing facilities and drinking water for all employees
  • Provide access to adequate first aid facilities
  • Report major injuries or fatalities to the Incident Contact Centre (0345 300 9923) and report other more serious injuries to HSE
  • Have insurance that provides cover in case employees are injured at work.
  • Work closely with any contractors and other businesses using the work area to ensure the health and safety of their employees

Your Responsibilities as an Employee

Employees also have responsibilities at work to ensure their own health and safety, and the safety of fellow employees:

  • Follow training provided to you by your employer
  • Take reasonable care for your own safety
  • Co-operate with your employer's efforts to ensure your and other's health and safety at work
  • Tell your manager or employer's Health and Safety Representative if you consider that the job or environment is putting your or anyone else's health at risk

Risks requiring special attention

There are a number of situations in which health and safety should be given special attention:

1. Coming back to work after time off

If you are unwell, you are entitled to take time off work in order to recover. The first seven days you can self-certify. Any time off work over 7 days, you will need a note from your GP advising that you are unfit for work (often called a "sick note").

Remember that you have a duty to look after your own health and safety at work. You should therefore only return to work when you are well enough to safely do your job.

You may need to initially return to work on reduced or "light" duties - for example not carrying out heavy manual handling tasks. Your employer should specifically assess the risks to you (in your current medical condition) of carrying out each task. They have a responsibility to make reasonable adjustments in order to ensure that you are safe at work.

However you also have a responsibility to stick to those amended duties until your employer says otherwise; if your employer has given you light duties, they have done so for a reason, and because they have assessed a particular risk to you.

2. Lone working

You employer should have specifically assessed the risks of carrying out each task for a lone worker. (For example working at height or using chemicals is likely to be more dangerous for a lone worker if they do not have others around them to assist should first aid be required.)

Your employer should in any assessment of risk specifically consider:

  • Whether work is to be done at night
  • Any risk of violence towards employees
  • Whether the use of harmful substances is required
  • Procedures for keeping in touch with lone workers
  • Access to first aid services if required by a lone worker

Your employer should carry out this assessment for each individual, specifically considering their medical suitability for a lone working role. (For example it may not be advisable to have someone with a heart problem and history of strokes to carry out a heavy manual task working as a lone worker. This is because the manual labour may increase their risk of further injury, and working alone, they may not have anyone around them to provide first aid if required.)

Remember: Being a "lone worker" does not necessarily mean working by yourself with no one around you, and so the risk must be assessed on a case by case basis. (For example a technician who fixes photocopiers may be a "lone worker", but actually spend every day in an office environment surrounded by other people. That is a very different situation to a security guard who is the only person on a large construction site.)

What can you do if your employer ignores your concerns?

If you have told your employer about your concerns, but they aren't willing to listen or don't take action, you can report your concerns to the Health and Safety Executive. (www.hse.gov.uk / 0300 003 1647)

Remember that if you are a "whistle-blower", your employment rights are protected your employer can't treat you any differently as a result.

What is HSE's procedure to deal with a report?

  1. Receive report
  2. Assess if the matter is something that they can and should look into further - within 24 hours, during the working week
  3. Let you know what action they are taking - within 21 days
  4. If you disagree with that decision, you can appeal - within 10 days of being told the decision. Email appeals@hse.gov.uk if you wish to appeal, and include any further information not already considered by HSE
  5. HSE will let you know the result of the appeal, usually by email

Ensuring Health and Safety in the work place is the responsibility of everyone, not just your employer. If you see something that is dangerous, report it. If you can think of a safer way to carry out a task, speak to your employer about changing their standard practice!

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[Add a Comment]
I've been working in a retail shop for quite some time. The shop is always dirty and dusty. I have a severe dust allergy and i can't breathe while in the shop some days, still my co workers and managers refuse to clean. If i have a problem it's my responsibility to deal with it on my own. I try my best to clean when i can but i have so much work to do i can't clean the whole shop.
Rosie - 27-Jul-20 @ 12:11 PM
Is it a legal requirement for the Health and Safety at work poster to be signed?
DD - 9-Jul-20 @ 8:40 AM
I have a office at work with a computer desk and chair whilst I’ve been on furlough, they have taken the chair away and raised the computer and told me I have to stand now sometimes I will have to be on the computer up to an hour but now have to do this stood up. Are they in there rights to do this as after a bit it starts hurting my lower back ?
Les - 26-May-20 @ 4:56 PM
I carry out housing related support and I’ve asked for support not to be in the area that I live, due to the nature of the clients I support. I been met with complete hostility by this request. What are my right.Work in a team of 30 and I’m the only person living in area I’ve requested not to work in...
Caz - 2-Mar-20 @ 7:14 AM
My husband works in a cogen power plant 12 hour shifts. Which are rotating shifts. On the night shift he is the only one there (alone), reading the control room equipment for the steam turbine, emissions, etc......then during the shift he is required to leave the control room to go outside and do the readings (3) times a night.......on this 12 hour night shift, he will get (1) call to make sure he is ok...Is this against the labor laws.
Eileen - 11-Feb-20 @ 8:45 PM
My employer is ignoring manual handling and making us work using bad manual handling lifting out of a big tub cant bend knees and lifting with back. For a full shift. Have spoke to them on several occasions just to be ignored looking for a bit of advice
Stace - 26-Jan-20 @ 2:49 PM
I drive a company van. Police saw it parked and as I approached they asked if I was driver and advised tyres illegal. I said that I would sort same day and phoned employer to tell him. He said they could not be changed that day. If I refuse to drive he will stop my pay (meaning I cannot pay rent) or worse will sack me. I have only been with company 6 months so do not think I can go to tribunal. But if I drive home and police check again I will be fined and have points. Please advise. DJGTL
Djgtl - 19-Sep-19 @ 9:59 AM
I have a fractured spine and I was wondering if I could get my employer to allow me to have a chair or something due to standing will cause major pain in my spine.
king - 14-Jun-19 @ 5:57 AM
Worked for 3 years as nurse for private care provider, huge issues with safe moving and handling practices, lack of equipment. Unacceptable practice by certain care staff under my responsibility as nurse in charge. What can I do to resolve this is impacting on my physical and mental health
Laney - 1-Jun-19 @ 9:31 AM
After being in nursing for many years I have since started work in retail. The shop I work in wont pay for any security guard even though thefts happen each and every day. My concern is we as retail staff are expected to watch follow and confront shoplifters most or all of them are known drug addicts. Now my concern is am I within my rights for my own safety to refuse to act as shop security? I have had no security training and I feel I am putting my own safety at risk by being expected to act as security. What are my rights please
Mummylyn - 25-Apr-19 @ 8:36 PM
Hi guys. I have just one question. I have really strong Depression, but I was sick one shift ago for another reason. Can the Company fire me if I'm in Probation time still till 18th November...?? Many thanks for answer. Niky
Niky - 9-Oct-18 @ 8:47 PM
I work for a large supermarket on the tobacco/lottery kiosk which is extremely busy. There is only ever one person on this department 90% of the time - is this legal?
Sas - 22-Sep-18 @ 10:20 PM
I work for a large supermarket and the 'offer displays' cover the fire extinguishers so no one knows they arethere. If there were a fire only trained personnel can use them. Therefore if it took that person to get from the far side of the shop surely that puts me and customers at risk? I have informed 2 managers about this and have been told the H&S guy is working nights and would be informed. This was 2 weeks ago and nothing has changed.
Sas - 22-Sep-18 @ 10:18 PM
Hi I work for a sweet distrubtion company all we do is distribute we don't make or prepare anything. I know it's not a good thing to do but I had a dry throat so I spat on the floor now I'm suspended and I'm going to have a meeting with management next week. We were never briefed about spitting on the floor or anything like that. What can i do to protect my job when i go back for my meeting?
Paul - 9-Sep-18 @ 10:38 PM
inwork For a thrift store and for the most part it’s fun. We work inside sheltered from most. Though roof work had started as they are laying down the new tar. With this more heat had came in -> drink more water, a foul smell is being introduced(told it won’t effect anyone negatively) though it gives head aches and makes people feel sick to their stomach, and dust is falling from the metal beams or “smut” which is why I’m here. This smut caused everyone at my table to get itchy eyes, itchy everything really, and breathing it in created a cough and eventually a burning throat. Most people went home at half time. The next day my throats still burning therefore I called in sick(it’s actually more so just a pain now,swallowing a a hassle). For doing so I lose my stat pay for Monday as I can’t work the current Friday because I got sick at work causing me to leave before I became anymore I’ll than I am. I’d there not a law that protects me from this? They did allow us to leave without us worrying but this just feels wrong. I shouldn’t have to get sick at work and lose time working because I got Ill at work.
Nick - 31-Aug-18 @ 3:58 PM
Carmel - Your Question:
I currently work for a large car manufacturers. I have now had 4 episodes of anaphylaxis due to a fellow colleague repatedly breaking the rules and spraying perfume on the factory floor. My managers are aware of my allergy and have turned a blind eye. They told me its not classed as an incidebt at work and is not work related. They have failed to investigate or do anything about it. In fact I now feel intimidated and victimised by them. I n the meantime I am expected to return to duties knowing that next time I could die. The union reps will not stand up to the managers so I am banging my head as to what I can do.please advise

Our Response:
Raise a formal grievance according your employer's policy. See the ACAS guide here
SafeWorkers - 27-Jul-18 @ 11:46 AM
I currently work for a large car manufacturers. I have now had 4 episodes of anaphylaxis due to a fellow colleague repatedly breaking the rules and spraying perfume on the factory floor. My managers are aware of my allergy and have turned a blind eye. They told me its not classed as an incidebt at work and is not work related. They have failed to investigate or do anything about it. In fact i now feel intimidated and victimised by them. I n the meantime i am expected to return to duties knowing that next time i could die. The union reps will not stand up to the managers so i am banging my head as to what i can do.please advise
Carmel - 26-Jul-18 @ 11:42 AM
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