Health and Safety in the Workplace FAQs

Covers key general health and safety queries that you may have in your workplace.

Do health and safety laws apply to my business?

It is a legal requirement for organisations with 5 or more people to have written risk assessments and a health and safety policy. Even if you have less than that number of employees it’s a good idea to have your arrangements written down so that you can train employees and reference back in the future or in the event of an accident or incident.

Who enforces health and safety law?

The responsibility of enforcing health and safety laws is shared between the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities. Fire Safety is enforced by the local fire and rescue services.

What are the penalties for non-compliance?

A breach in regulation compliance could result in include fines and in some cases imprisonment.

When can health and safety inspectors visit?

Health and safety inspectors can visit your workplace at any time. For routine inspections they are more likely to schedule it in beforehand.

Do I have to have a health and safety policy?

It is a legal requirement for companies with 5 or more employees to have a health and safety policy. Health and safety policies should include a statement of intent, a list of who is responsible for what and information about how issues will be managed.

What health and safety signs or notices do I need to display?

The HSE Health and Safety Law Poster should be shown in a visible place in the workplace, or circulated to all employees if required.

Other safety documents you may want to display includes:

  • Fire safety signage
  • Employers’ Liability Certificate
  • No Smoking signage

What is meant by a hazard or a risk?

A hazard is something that has the potential to cause harm, such as an uneven or damaged walkway, hazardous substances or working at height. Risk is described as the probability or likelihood that a hazardous event will occur and includes the likely consequences that might result. All workplace hazards should be identified and assessed through a risk assessment process to determine the likelihood of a hazardous event happening, and the consequences that might result.

What are the most common workplace hazards?

Common workplace hazards depending on the sector industry include:

  • Safety hazards – including trailing power cables, unguarded machinery and frayed or faulty electrical wires.
  • Ergonomic hazards – including manual handling, use of display screen equipment and vibration.
  • Slips, trips and falls on the same level
  • Work at height
  • Lone working
  • Stress and mental health
  • Chemical and hazardous substances
  • Fire
  • Driving
  • Noise

What is the legal requirement for holiday entitlement?

Full-time employees are entitled to 28 days paid annual leave a year. This is the equivalent of 5.6 weeks of holiday. Part-time workers will get the equivalent holiday based on the hours they work.

How often should health and safety training be refreshed?

Unfortunately, most health and safety training does not have a defined refresher time period. Almost all legislation leaves the decisions for refresher training to the employer. The general approach is that refresher training is undertaken every three years.

It is common for organisations to schedule key health and safety refresher training annually, such as fire safety and manual handling training.