Health and Safety
The legal position
The concept that employees should be safe at work is not a recent phenomenon. Legislation was developed in the 1970s to streamline the many different statutes governing safety issues making management responsible for the provision and maintenance of adequate standards and policies.
But although there are many different statutes governing safety issues, health and safety is not only governed by legislation. Under what is known as ‘common law’ all employers have a duty of care imposed on them to protect their employees. There is also a term implied into all employment contracts requiring employers to take care of their employees’ health and safety. For example, employers must:
- provide a safe place of work
- provide a safe system of work
- provide adequate plant and equipment
- recruit competent and safety conscious staff.
If an employer fails to take reasonable care in any of these areas, an employee may have a number of claims, including the ability to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal. Employees, too, have responsibilities and should work with their employer to develop a safe place of work.
The legislation relating to health and safety is very extensive. One of the most important statutes is the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA). All work places are covered by this legislation which says that an employer must do everything reasonably practicable to provide a safe and healthy workplace with adequate welfare facilities. HSWA has been supported and extended by various sets of regulations, codes of practice and guidance, all of which deal with various aspects of health and safety.
Following a successful prosecution, the courts would decide what penalty to impose which may include fines or even custodial sentences. Fines for most existing health and safety offences range from £5,000 to £20,000 in the Magistrate's Court but are unlimited in the Crown Court. There is also the threat of imprisonment for all employees who may have contributed to a health and safety offence by their consent, connivance or neglect. Yes, you can go to prison for health and safety offences!
Some examples of other relevant legislation include:
The "six pack" regulations
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
- Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
- Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
- Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
- Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
- Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002
- Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013
- Transport of Dangerous Goods (Safety Advisers) Regulations 1999
- Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
- Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998
- The Control of Noise at Work regulations 2005
- The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015
- The Control of Asbestos regulations 2012
- Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002
- Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1991
- Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005
- Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2015
- Dangerous Substances in Harbour Areas Regulations 1987
- Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999
- Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977
- The Confined Spaces Regulations 1997
- The Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations 2001
- The Work at Height Regulations 2005
A full list of all UK Health & Safety legislation can be found on the HSE website
Breach of the regulations is a crime throughout the UK. Since 2015, the maximum penalty in the magistrates’ court is an unlimited fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or both. In the Crown Court, the maximum penalty is an unlimited fine or imprisonment not exceeding two years or both. Either an individual or a corporation can be punished and sentencing practice is published by the Sentencing Guidelines Council.
In addition to extensive legislation, there is ongoing research and consultation concerning workplace health and safety.
Employers’ duties to provide a safe and healthy working environment arise from the core principles of negligence, contract, and the numerous specific statutory duties referred to above.
Employers should, at least:
- publish a health and safety policy
- arrange for the appointment of health and safety representatives
- establish a health and safety committee if requested by a recognised trade union
- appoint a competent person to evaluate risks and hazards
- arrange periodic risk assessments
- consult with employee health and safety representatives
- prevent risks
- inform staff of risks
- combat risks at source
- arrange protection from unavoidable risks
- provide safety training
- monitor and improve safety arrangements
- provide health-risk surveillance
- adapt work to the individual especially with respect to the design of workplaces
- alleviate monotonous work
- develop a prevention policy
- appoint one or more competent persons to assist in undertaking preventative and protective measures
- establish procedures to be followed in the event of serious and imminent danger to persons working in the organisation
- require persons at work who are exposed to serious and imminent danger to be informed of the nature of the hazards and steps taken to protect them
- provide comprehensible and relevant health and safety information
- provide adequate health and safety training during working hours.
Producing a policy
All employers with more than five employees must have a statement of their health and safety policy. This statement must:
- be written
- be carefully thought through and demonstrate a commitment to managing health and safety
- be workable
- contains a general statement of intent to provide a safe and healthy working environment
- be easily accessible and brought to the attention of all employees
- give details of the health and safety responsibilities within the organisation
- name key individuals
- cover the systems and procedures in place
- refer to other documents where appropriate
- cover managing risk assessments
- include arrangements for employee consultation, maintaining equipment, safe handling of substances
- explain arrangements for training, supervision, accidents, first aid and emergencies
- address stress, and drink and drug misuse.
Policies should be produced after consultation with employees and after conducting surveys on staff attitudes to health and safety. They should be also applied uniformly and there should be a system for regularly monitoring and reviewing the policy to ensure that it complies with current legislation. The adoption of a tailor-made policy is best practice and entirely 'off the shelf' policies are discouraged. The obligation to provide a health and safety policy originally arises under section 2(3) of the HSWA. In cases of flagrant disregard, enforcement officers may issue improvement notices which if contravened lead to the ultimate potential sanctions of criminal penalties, including large fines and imprisonment. SBM Safety Solutions can assist you with this requirement and formulate a policy and arrangement manual specific to your company – Call 0800 787 9006 (Freephone) to discuss your requirements.
Employers’ duties at a place of work
Some key examples of the employer’s duties with respect to a place of work include:
- Under section 2 of HSWA, employers have an obligation to provide and maintain systems of work and a working environment which are, as far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health. The duty extends to providing maintenance of safe plant and systems of work, information, training, supervision and adequate support.
- Under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 a duties arise to provide employees and other visitors with a safe place of work.
- All employers must take out and maintain an insurance policy known as an Employer's Liability Insurance Certificate to cover against any diseases or injuries to employees sustained in the workplace. The Certificate must be displayed where it is visible to employees. Employers who fail to display the Certificate or fail to insure against liability may be fined.
- Fire is a hazard in all workplaces. By law, all organisations must take precautionary measures by controlling fire risks and providing fire escape routes. Employers have legal responsibility for fire safety and fire authorities no longer provide routine advice on the fire precautions employers should take. Employers must carry out a fire safety risk assessment; those with five or more employees have additional record keeping responsibilities. Employers must also inform workers of fire risks and provide training in fire safety procedures and escape drills.
- The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 lay down minimum standards for workplaces and work in or near buildings.
Employer’s duties include:
- maintaining the workplace, equipment, devices and systems
- providing ventilation by sufficient quantity of fresh and purified air
- maintaining a reasonable temperature, and provision of thermometers
- ensuring suitable, sufficient and natural light so far as is reasonably practicable
- providing a clean workplace where waste materials must not be permitted to accumulate
- providing sufficient floor area, height and unoccupied space
- providing suitable and sufficient sanitary conveniences at readily accessible places.
Inspectors from the local authority Environmental Health Department, or HSE are responsible for enforcing health and safety law, and organisations can be prosecuted for breaches. All workplaces must be registered with either of these two bodies. Employees can report any breaches of the legislation or seek advice from them.
Noise at Work
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 require employers to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety of their employees from exposure to noise at work. Employees also have duties under the Regulations to co-operate with reasonable requests from their employer in the pursuit of complying with these regulations.
The Regulations set specific "exposure action values" and "exposure limit values", these are detailed in table 1 below and place specific duties on to employers which includes:
- Assess the risks to employees from noise at work. The purpose of the Noise Regulations 2005 is to make sure that employees do not suffer damage to their hearing - so controlling noise risks and noise exposure should be where efforts are concentrated. SBM Safety Solutions can take care of this for you.
- Take action to reduce the noise exposure that produces those risks. Wherever there is noise at work an employer should be looking for alternative processes, equipment and/or working methods which would make the work quieter or alternatively reduce the time an employee spends in a high noise environment. Employers should be aware of good practice or the standard for noise control within the industry.
- Employers should provide employees with hearing protection if noise exposure within the workplace cannot be reduced sufficiently by using other methods and if noise levels exceed the upper exposure action values. SBM Safety Solutions will make recommendations based on on-site measurements.
- Make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded. If exposure is below the lower exposure action values, risks are low and so an employer would be expected to take actions which are relatively inexpensive and simple to carry out. Where an assessment shows that employees are likely to be exposed at or above the upper exposure action values, a planned programme of noise control must be in place. Where there are things that can be done to reduce risks from noise, that are reasonably practicable, they should be implemented.
- Provide employees with information, instruction and training.
- Carry out health surveillance where there is a risk to health, where upper exposure action values are exceeded.
Exposure action values and exposure limit values
Daily or weekly personal average noise exposure
Peak sound level
Peak sound level
Lower Exposure Action Values
135dB (C- weighted)
Upper Exposure Action Values
85dB (A- weighted)
137dB (C- weighted)
Exposure limit values
87dB (A- weighted)
140dB (C- weighted)
Noise is measured in decibels (dB). An "A-weighting" written as "dB(A)", is used to measure average noise levels, and a "C-weighting" of "dB(C)", to measure peak, impact or explosive noises. Where the exposure of an employee to noise varies markedly from day to day, an employer may use weekly personal noise exposure in place of daily personal noise exposure for the purpose of compliance with the Noise Regulations.
SBM Safety Solutions are asked to assist with a wide variety of environmental noise assessments including, assessments for planning applications (adjacent to road, rail or industry for example), the installation of industrial plant (e.g. adjacent to sensitive receptors) or for a change of use on an industrial site or an extension of operational hours or activities in any commercial environment (including pubs, retail, entertainment etc.).
All noise surveys are carried out to meet the latest standards and we confirm the requirements set out by the local governing department, be it Environmental Health, Planning or Building Control.
We'll work for you alongside the local authority to ensure your noise issues are discharged accordingly and that a suitable solution is achieved that satisfies all interested parties.
Existing Standards and guidance that we will refer to, includes (not exhaustively):
British Standard 8233:2014
'Guidance on sound insulation and noise reduction for buildings'.
This standard is used to ensure that specific internal noise levels are achieved for either existing or proposed residential developments. The standard gives guidance to the maximum permitted internal levels that are be being achieved.
British Standard 4142:2014
'Methods for rating and assessing industrial and commercial sound'.
This standard is widely used throughout the country, all local and county councils regard this standard as an appropriate standard for assessing the impact of a potential noise complaint from industrial noise affecting existing or proposed residential premises.
NPPF 'Planning and Policy Guidance
Planning and Noise'. We may also refer to previous guidance PPG24 and existing guidance for Wales TAN 11.
To establish the typical average internal or external noise levels for daytime and night time, before and after construction. These surveys are usually up to 24hours in length and can be carried out to assess the typical level of ambient noise or specific factors such as road traffic, nightlife or noise from industrial sources.
British Standard 7445:
'Description and Measurement of Environmental Noise'.
This standard relates to the procedure and methodology that should be adopted and implemented in order for a qualified acoustic engineer to carry out an accurate and traceable noise survey of an external environmental noise source.
The above standards are often used in conjunction with each other in order to compile and complete a full external environmental noise survey depending on the individual circumstances of the project.
Sound Insulation Testing (ADE) – Part E Building Regulations
We have been carrying out pre-completion sound testing for 10 years through our Associate Company Martec. Call 0800 787 9006 (Freephone) to discuss your requirements. As required by The Building Regulations (England & Wales) Part E, all acousticians are accredited by the Association of Noise Consultants (ANC). Upon completion, ANC certificates will be issued (uploaded online for clients and Building Control) and a Technical Report provided, detailing sound insulation testing results and recommendations. Test engineers conducting the sound testing are also all members of the Institute of Acoustics MIOA. All equipment used calibrated to UKAS accredited standards.
These tests are more commonly known and referred to as sound tests, sound insulation tests or simply SI tests. The requirements for this sound testing refer to either new build constructions or refurbished developments.
Our sound testing procedures are carried out in accordance with current standards ISO 140-4 'Field Measurement of Airborne Sound Insulation Between Rooms' and ISO 140-7 'Field Measurement of Impact Sound Insulation of Floors.' The results are rated in accordance with ISO 717-1 and ISO 717-2. These results are then assessed generally in accordance with the 2010 Building Regulations Approved Document E (ADE) 'Resistance to the Passage of Sound' and will either pass or fail the prescribed standards.
For purpose built dwellings or dwellings formed by material change of use, the Building Regulations Approved Document E 2003 'Resistance to the Passage of Sound' requires separating structures to meet the prescribed standards, as below:
Vibration at Work
The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005
The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 came into force on 6 July 2005.
The Regulations apply to both hand-arm vibration (HAV) and whole-body vibration (WBV). They make provision for the following:
Exposure limit values and action values
For HAV, the exposure values are:
- exposure action value: 2.5 m/s2 A (8)
- exposure limit value: 5.0 m/s2 A (8)
(m/s2 = metres per second squared; A (8) = the daily exposure to vibration of a person)
Daily exposure should be ascertained on the basis set out in Schedule 1 (Part 1) to the Regulations
For WBV the exposure values are:
- exposure action value: 0.5 m/s2 A (8)
- exposure limit value: 1.15 m/s2 A (8)
(m/s2 = metres per second squared; A (8) = the daily exposure to vibration of a person).
An employer who carries out work which is liable to expose any of their employees to risk from vibration shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk created by that work to the health and safety of those employees and the risk assessment shall identify the measures that need to be taken to meet the requirements of these Regulations. SBM Safety Solutions can assist with your assessment and calculate exposure using manufacturers data or by measuring the levels of vibration on site using the latest meters and accelerometers.
The environmental impact resulting from vibration issues is becoming an increasing concern, especially for local authorities, due to national environmental legislation.
We can assist with the measurement and impact evaluation of environmental noise and vibration from various sources, in accordance with the following standards and guidelines:
- BS6472 Evaluation of Human Exposure to Vibration in Buildings
- BS7385 Evaluation and Measurement for Vibration in Buildings
- BS5228 Construction & Open Sites