People can be wary of the area of legislation because of the perception that it is difficult to understand, probably thanks to the ‘legalese’ it is frequently written in and also due to the fear that somehow and in some way a little bit of knowledge will make them liable for something. Furthermore, the legal profession are frequently guilty of failing to explain things clearly. Of course, any true and competent professional will be able to explain even the most complex matters in plain and simple English and if they can’t, they probably don’t understand it properly themselves, and if they won’t, then they may be trying to inflate their fees.
Where do you stand?
The first thing to say about health and safety legislation is that ignorance is no defence – if an employer doesn’t know anything about it that does not exempt them from the legal requirements they have to ensure the good health safety and welfare of their employees and any contractors and visitors coming to their workplaces. Neither do straightened economic circumstances arising from the recession or other factors provide exemptions. Anyone who puts people in danger therefore runs the risk of being put before the courts by the Health and Safety Authority – and unless an employer can prove they did everything that was ‘reasonably practicable’ to have avoided an accident they will be found guilty.
Consequently, it is beholden on employers to ensure they have access to the relevant health and safety information (e.g. expert advice, guidance documents, risk assessments etc.) which will allow them to identify workplace hazards, assess the levels of risk and put in place and communicate appropriate controls to their employees and others. All employees should have knowledge of the health and safety risks they are exposed to and the measures they need to take to protect themselves. Once basic awareness has been instilled regular communications and initiatives should be undertaken to promote a positive health and safety ‘culture’.
What can I do?
Lots of useful information can be found on the Health and Safety Authority website including simple and clearly explained guidance about proper risk assessment and all the common workplace hazards in the different sectors. An online learning link is available through this website which will help you learn new skills and help prevent accidents. The Health and Safety Executive based in the UK also provides very detailed, ‘plain English’ guidance on health and safety best practice.
Want to find out more? We provide public and in-house courses to give you a basic grounding in health and safety legislation to set you on the path to become more knowledgeable in this area. Feel free to contact us for more info.