The MHSW Regulations aim to reduce the number and severity of accidents in the workplace.
The law forces employers to consider the safety of all stakeholders in a business, including employees, contractors, and customers, to assess potential risks and to create action plans for emergencies.
The MHSW Regulations have been effective since December 1999, and are additional to law under the Health and Safety of Work Act 1974.
For most businesses, compliance with industry specific regulations regarding H&S is normally sufficient. However, where the MHSW Regulations go further, extra measures are required.
As with much regulatory legislation, it is unlikely that your business will fall foul of it unless there is some reason for some person to investigate. In the case of H&S requirements, that is most likely to happen if either an employee complains to a tribunal (if you are found to be at fault, you may have to compensate the employee) or if there is an accident (in serious cases, such as manslaughter, a fine can be unlimited).
However, there is much that can be done easily to comply.
Employers have a duty to asses all risks for all workers, whether they work on the business premises, at home or at the premises of clients.
The exemptions are seafarers, and young people performing temporary or short-term work in a family business or in domestic service.
Regular risk assessments
Risk assessments must be carried out periodically. As a result of these, if there are any significant increases to risk, the workplace, equipment and work practices should be changed to reduce that risk.
Generally, if safety procedures can ever be improved, they should be.
Reasonable steps should be taken so that everyone in the business is familiar with general hazards and risks in the workplace.
In addition, every employee should be given training about how to avoid hazardous situations relevant to his or her particular job, such as for the manual handling of items safely.
In practice, there are many ways that you can provide training. For example, you might organise on the job training when an employee starts, hold regular training days every year, and publish a manual for the operation of each piece of equipment. General information could be posted in an employee manual or on your intranet.
Organised work practices
The Regulations encourage employers to create employee rules and regulations, as these usually result in systematic work and lower the chance of an accident happening.
Practices that increase the risk of accident, such as lengthening of the working day, or the removal of taking screening breaks should be avoided.
Suggestions for compliance
We suggest that:
- If the use of advanced technology helps in reducing risks, you should make use of it.
- Your employees should do the work that best suits them.
- To show how serious you are in ensuring the health and safety of your employees, risk prevention should feature in your business policies.
- You should give priority to measures that protect the whole workplace (i.e. everyone collectively) over those that protect individuals.
- You should make sure you have an active health and safety policy or culture in place.
Regular risk assessments should be carried out by compentent people. An assessment would inlcude planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of arrangements, and the views of employees and safety representatives should be taken into account.
Competent people are likely to be senior employees, but could be external specialists, or a combination of internal and external personnel. Mistakes by third parties do not free employers from liability for breaches of statutory duty.
There are numerous references to the role of safety representatives and other employee representatives in the guidance, with strong indications that consultation with representatives is required.
A risk assessment should:
- identify hazards
- identify who might be harmed and how
- evaluate the risks from the identified hazards
- record the significant findings
- provide for review and revision
The record should be retrievable for use by the employer, safety representatives, other employee representatives and visiting inspectors.
The Regulations focus on preventive and protective measures. These include:
- avoiding risks
- evaluating risks that cannot be avoided
- combating risks at source
- adapting work to the individual
- adapting to technical progress
- replacing the dangerous with the non-dangerous or the less dangerous
- developing a coherent overall prevention policy
- giving collective protective measures priority over individual protective measures
- giving appropriate instructions to employees
A coherent overall prevention policy would cover technology, organisation of work, working conditions, social relationships and the influence of factors relating to the working environment.
Adapting work to the individual might include changing the design of the workplace, the choice of work equipment and the choice of working and production methods. The aim would be to alleviate monotonous work.
Employers must maintain contact with external services (particularly first aid and emergency services) who provide medical care and rescue work.
Written procedures for workers to follow when faced with serious and imminent danger should be created. Since not all accidents can be foreseen, these should acknowledge that situations may arise when workers need to act on their own initiative to make themselves safe. There should be clear explanations as to when workers should stop work and move to a place of safety.
An employer who employs a child below school-leaving age must inform the parent or guardian of the child of the risks and the safety requirements derived from the risk assessment.
The duty of employers to perform risk assessments is extended specifically to cover young workers. This must take account of their lack of experience, the absence of awareness of existing or potential risks, or the fact that they have not yet fully matured.
Employers may not employ young people for some types of work unless it is necessary for training, there is competent supervision and the risk is reduced to the lowest level reasonably practicable. Risk assessments need to be carried out before young people begin work.
Employers must carry out an assessment of the risks to new and expectant mothers and to their babies.
When safety cannot be assured or if the work must be carried out at night, and if suitable work is either not available, or has been declined, employers may change the working conditions or hours of work. This may include suspending the new mother, or mother-to-be on full pay.
An employer need not take any action until an employee notifies them that she is pregnant, has given birth within the previous six months, or is breast feeding. Notification for the purpose of any statutory requirement, such as statutory maternity pay, constitutes sufficient notice under the MHSW Regulations.
The employer must introduce appropriate safety measures immediately on notification. The employer can request confirmation of the pregnancy by means of a medical certificate and can discontinue safety measures if this is not produced within a reasonable time.
Host employers must ensure that people working on their premises who are self-employed or who work for other employees receive relevant safety information. This can be done by providing them with information directly or providing it to their employers. In the case of the latter, the host employer must check that the information is passed on.
Managers should be aware of relevant legislation relating to health and safety and should be competent to manage H&S policy effectively. All employees, including senior management, should receive relevant training.