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Health & Safety services

Health & Safety

Top 10 FAQ

1. Do I need a Health & Safety policy?

Yes. If you have five or more employees, the policy must be in writing, and you must bring it to the attention of your employees. Even if you have fewer employees, it is good practice to have a written policy.

2. What are the main rules covering the workplace environment?

Practical measures you need to consider include providing:

  • Enough clean, working toilets.
  • Drinking water (mains or bottled).
  • Regular cleaning of working areas.
  • A comfortable working temperature.
  • Adequate lighting (both for safety reasons and for employee welfare).
  • Adequate space and ventilation.
  • Changing rooms if employees need to change into work clothing.
  • Arrangements for meal breaks.
  • A working environment where people can avoid being irritated by tobacco smoke.
  • Rest facilities for pregnant and nursing mothers, and for those involved in physically strenuous work.

3. What is the maximum temperature in which we can require employees to work?

With the summer seemingly starting and heat-waves a possibility employees may ask if they can go home because “it’s too hot”.

The Regulation 7 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 deals with the temperature in indoor workplaces and states that “During Working hours, the temperature in all workrooms inside buildings shall be reasonable.” The minimum legal temperature in workrooms is 160C (after the first hour) unless the work involves severe physical effort, in which case it must be at least 130C.

The Regulations do not set down maximum temperatures for work spaces but instead advise “'An acceptable zone … for most people in the UK lies roughly between 13°C (56°F) and 30°C (86°F)”. The World Health & Safety Organisation recommend a maximum temperature of 24 deg C in the workplace. If this temperature is exceeded they advise that ventilation is improved immediately.

If the occupants of the workplace find the conditions uncomfortable organisations should make every reasonable effort to alleviate the situation. The Health & Safety Executive advise that provision of extra fans or air conditioning units, increased ventilation and measures such as adequate window blinds may help to reduce discomfort in the office and thus reduce stress, maintain productivity and safety in the workplace.

4. How many toilets should a workplace have?

Regulation 20 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 states that “suitable and sufficient sanitary conveniences shall be provided at readily accessible places.” The accompanying code of practice gives minimum numbers as follows:

Number of toilets and washbasins for mixed use (or women only):

Maximum number of people
at work at one time

Number of toilets

Number of wash basins

1 – 5



6 – 25



26 – 50



51 – 75



76 – 100



Toilets used by men only:

Maximum number of men
at work at one time

Number of toilets

Number of urinals

1 – 15



16 – 30



31 – 45



46 – 60



61 – 75



76 – 90



91 – 100



5. What is meant by "hazard and risk"?

A hazard means anything that can cause harm (e.g. chemicals, electricity, working at height, machinery etc).

Risk is the change, high or low, that somebody will be harmed by the hazard.

6. What is a risk assessment?

A risk assessment is the process of identifying potential health & safety risks and hazards and making a decision about how serious they are. You need to consider anything which might harm or injure: for example, where people might trip, fall, or collide; electrical installations and machinery; hazardous substances; or other particular hazards of your business. You must also take into account potential longer term risks to employees health: for example, causes of physical or mental stress; poorly designed workstations; and manual handling of objects.

You are legally required to carry out a risk assessment and take steps to control any risks you identify. You should review the assessment periodically (eg annually) or whenever circumstances change (eg if you introduce new equipment, refurbish or change workstation arrangements, or change of work activities) or if you have reason to believe the assessment is no longer valid.

7. I am only a small business, what are my first aid responsibilities?

The Health & Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require you to provide “adequate and appropriate” equipment, facilities and personnel to enable first aid to be given to your employees if they are injured or become ill at work. What is adequate and appropriate will depend on the circumstances in your workplace and you should assess what your first aid needs are.

The minimum first-aid provision on any work site is:

  • a suitably stocked first-aid box
  • an appointed person to take charge of first-aid arrangements when someone is injured or falls ill, including calling an ambulance if required and look after the first-aid equipment, e.g. restocking the first-aid box.

It is also important to remember that accidents can happen at any time. First-aid provision needs to be available at all times people are at work.

8. What type of accident do I need to report to the enforcing authority?

You must report any accident which causes:

  • An employee to be killed or suffer a major injury (Fracture other than to fingers, thumbs or toes, Amputation, Dislocation of the shoulder, hip, knee or spine, Chemical or hot metal burn to the eye or any penetrating injury to the eye)
  • A member of the public to be killed or have to be taken to hospital
  • An employee to be away from work for three days or more
  • If a doctor notifies you that your employee suffers from a reportable work related disease

9. Do I have a responsibility for contractors working in our premises?

Yes, if you engage a contractor to carry out work for you in your premises you have a duty to check that they are competent, provide them with the information they need to do their work safely and ensure that they do not create risks to health & safety of your employees and anyone else who could be affected by the work they are doing.

10. What must a small business do to comply with disability discrimination law?

Small businesses have to make ‘reasonable adjustments’, either to physical barriers preventing people with disabilities being employed, or by providing reasonable alternatives to enable them to carry out a job.

The law does not specify exactly what ‘adjustments’ a small business should make, and they will depend on individual circumstances. So, for example, a small firm with a limited budget for changes would not be expected to make physical alterations on a scale affordable to a larger company. There is no legal requirement to make changes which are impractical or beyond the means of a business.

Adjustments to premises might include:

  • Making sure premises are well lit and providing clearer signs
  • Installing a ramp and a handrail at the entrance to a building where there are steps
  • Replacing a door handle with one that is easier to reach and to grip
  • Using colour contrast to ensure entrances and exits are easier to use
  • Providing equipment to an employee to enable to carry out tasks e.g. a larger computer screen or changing the work station layout.

Other adjustments might include:

  • Changing working hours
  • Reallocating some tasks to other employees
  • Training and/or re-skilling
  • Provision of supervision and assistance

FAQs are for general guidance only and should not be considered a comprehensive statement of Law; they do not remove the need for seeking specific professional advice on specific issues particularly when a claim may ensue.

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