Your employer has a ‘duty of care’ to ensure, as far as possible, your health, safety and welfare while you’re at work. They should start with a risk assessment to spot possible health and safety hazards.

They have to appoint a ‘competent person’ with health and safety responsibilities usually one of the owners in smaller firms, or a member of staff trained in health and safety.

Businesses employing five or more people For businesses employing five or more people, there must also be:

An official record of what the assessment finds (your employer has to put plans in place to deal with the risks) a formal health and safety policy which includes arrangements to protect your health and safety (you should be told what these are)

Your employer’s duty of care in practice

All employers, whatever the size of the business, must:

– make the workplace safe – prevent risks to health – ensure that plant and machinery is safe to use – ensure safe working practices are set up and followed – make sure that all materials are handled, stored and used safely – provide adequate first aid facilities – tell you about any potential hazards from the work you do – chemicals and other substances used by the firm – and give you information, instructions, training and supervision as needed – set up emergency plans – make sure that ventilation, temperature, lighting, toilet, washing and rest facilities all meet health, safety and welfare requirements – check that the right work equipment is provided and is properly used and regularly maintained – prevent or control exposure to substances that may damage your health – take precautions against the risks caused by flammable or explosive hazards, electrical equipment, noise and radiation – avoid potentially dangerous work involving manual handling (and if it can’t be avoided, take precautions to reduce the risk of injury) – provide health supervision as needed – provide protective clothing or equipment free of charge (if risks can’t be removed or adequately controlled by any other means) – ensure that the right warning signs are provided and looked after – report certain accidents, injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences to either the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland or the local authority, depending on the type of business