Health and Safety in the workplace
The council’s health and safety team is based in the commercial section of the Public Protection Department and play a crucial enforcement role in ensuring suitable standards of health and safety are maintained in work places within the county borough.
The main legislation in relation to health and safety is the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974 (HASAWA74). Responsibilities for enforcing the act are shared between a central government body called the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities. Enforcement responsibilities are allocated on the basis of the ‘main activity’ carried on at each premises to which the act applies.
There are currently approximately 2,500 work places in the county borough for which the team is responsible. The health and safety team work closely with businesses to ensure that employers are aware of their legal obligations and that legal requirements imposed on such businesses are complied with.
Standards of health and safety in these work places are achieved by:
- Inspection of work places and work activities
- Investigation of workplace related complaints
- Investigation of workplace accidents
Inspection of workplaces and work activities
Each premises that falls within the responsibility of the local authority is inspected at a frequency determined by the hazards associated with the work activity and the hazards that these pose to employers, employees and members of the public.
What do they look for?
There are five priority topics concentrated on during inspection which have been identified by the HSE as the matters most likely to kill, injure and make people ill:
- falls from heights
- slips and trips
- musculoskeletal disorders
- workplace transport
- workplace stress
together with any other immediately obvious matters which could cause serious injury or ill health.
Any problem identified will be discussed with the business concerned and depending on what is found at the time of inspection written advice, warning letters or enforcement action is taken.
What powers have they got?
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 gives inspectors various powers of enforcement.
Improvement Notice – Where an inspector is of the opinion that a person is contravening one or more of the relevant statutory provisions listed in Schedule 1 of the act, or has contravened one or more of those conditions in circumstances that make it likely that the contravention will continue or be repeated. The notice states the particulars and the inspector’s opinion and requires that the stated matters must be remedied within a specified period. It is an offence not to comply with an Improvement Notice.
Prohibition Notice – This applies to any activities that are being or about to be carried on by or under the control of any person which involve or will involve the risk of serious personal injury. The notice specifies the matters that cause the inspector to form an opinion and directs a person not to carry out the specified activities. Such a notice may come into effect immediately where the risk is imminent. It is an offence not to comply with a Prohibition Notice.
Appeals for Improvement and Prohibition Notices are normally made to industrial tribunals. After its adjudication the tribunal will issue written decisions which are binding upon the parties. An appeal may be made to the High Court on a point of law.
In addition to the above there are a number of offences under the act which include:
- failure to comply with the general duties under Section 2 to 7 of the Act
- contraventions of health and safety regulations
- contraventions relating to statutory enquiries
- obstructing an inspector;
- refusing to reveal information;
- misusing or wrongfully revealing information obtained under statutory power;
- making false statements, entries in registers and forging documents
Investigations of workplace related complaints and provision of advice
On Average there are approximately 450 annual complaints and requests for advice received from the public by the public protection department concerning issues regarding the workplace. Such complaints can be about the failure of an employer to provide special facilities such as protective clothing or toilets, or about general working conditions, and advice may be about workplace entitlement.
On receipt of a complaint an inspector will promptly commence its investigation and a balanced professional decision as to whether or not enforcement action should be instigated will be made. The powers of enforcement are as listed above.
Advice or information may be provided in a confidential manner if required.
Investigation of workplace accidents
Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) all employers and other ‘responsible persons’ who have control over employees and work premises have a duty to report to the relevant enforcing authority certain accidents, occupational diseases and dangerous occurrences both fatal and non-fatal which occur in the workplace. The following are reportable:-
- Major injuries (including members of the public being taken to hospital);
- Over 7 day injuries;
- Injuries to people not at work;
- Occupational diseases;
- Dangerous occurrences/near misses; and
- Acts of violence to staff.
The reporting must be done by the employer by either reporting online, by telephone or by post. Incidents can be reported online by going to www.hse.gov.uk/riddor and completing the appropriate online report form. The more serious incidents i.e. a fatality requires immediate notification. There were 331 reportable accidents to the Public Protection Department between April 2010 to March 2013.
Health and Safety Topics
Health and Safety Team
Public Protection Department
Bridgend County Borough Council
Civic Offices, Angel St
Bridgend CF31 4WB
Tel: (01656) 643643