Health & Safety Legal Compliance and its Benefits
9th November 2023 - Written by Omar Khalid
This World Quality Week reminds us of the role of a structured, consistent approach to compliance within businesses and organisations, and the benefits of doing this. A quality approach uses a Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle to establish risks/hazards and opportunities and to maintain goals of compliance with legislation and (commonly for health and safety) zero harm objectives. Key to this is understanding compliance requirements and how to discharge these effectively, to protect people, and to protect our businesses and organisations.
What is the current Health & Safety Legislation?
Current health & safety legislation in the UK is designed to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of employees in the workplace, as well as others (e.g. the public) who may be affected by a business’ undertaking. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 is the cornerstone of health and safety legislation in the U.K. and provides the legislative framework to promote, stimulate and encourage high standards of health and safety at work, including by placing responsibilities upon employers and employees (a unique feature of such legislation at the time of coming into force). This Act is supported by topic-specific legislation, including regulations and orders.
As well as safeguarding the wellbeing of workers and reducing workplace risks, health and safety legislation has positive economic, legal, and social implications, and by promoting a culture of safety and responsibility, such legislation can benefit individuals, businesses, and society as a whole.
How to stay updated?
Employers have a duty to be aware of health and safety legislation applicable to their business and should ensure that knowledge of applicable legislation is kept up to date to enable compliance and maintain a safe working environment.
There are various means by which information can be obtained on current health and safety legislation to assist with identifying applicability, including the websites of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) / Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) and professional bodies such as IOSH; professional journals and magazines; and attending seminars and workshops. Paid resources may include commercially available online databases and external consultancy services. However, the use of an external resource does not absolve the employer from responsibilities for health and safety under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
Regular auditing is an effective way of determining whether compliance with applicable legislation is being maintained. While formally registered management systems (such as a health and safety system registered to ISO 45001) require regular internal auditing of procedures and arrangements, doing so for internal systems is important also.
In-house employees undertaking the auditing of a management system should be provided with a suitable level of information, instruction and training to be able to do so, such as completing an internal/lead auditor training course.
Why maintain compliance?
The benefits to any business of regular auditing include maintaining compliance with relevant health and safety legislation, thus, reducing the risk of legal issues and fines; identifying potential hazards, risks and vulnerabilities in the workplace; and improving the safety culture. Ultimately, such actions can bring financial savings to a business through fewer accidents, less workplace absenteeism and a reduction in the likelihood of workplace claims.