Frequently Asked Questions

What work activities are covered by health and safety law?

All work activities are covered by health and safety laws. The Health and Safety Executive enforces a range of legislation, including;

  • The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Regulations made under this act apply to all work situations, for example the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) and the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations.
  • Other laws that cover particular hazards, such as parts of the Food and Environmental Protection Act and the Control of Pesticides Regulations, both of which are about pesticides.
  • Laws that cover health and safety in specific industries such as mining, nuclear, railway, explosives and offshore oil and gas;
  • Older laws that predate the Health and safety at Work Act, and cover a range of industries, but not all workplaces, such as the Factories Act and regulations made under it. Most of these laws are gradually being modernised.

Although all working situations are covered by health and safety regulations, not all workplaces are inspected by HSE. Enforcement of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act and related legislation is shared with Local Authorities who cover certain types of work activities.

For information on the basics regarding what your employer must do to make their business comply with health and safety law, please see 'Health and safety made simple'.

Both employers and workers should  read Health and safety law: what you need to know. This contains the same information that is displayed on Health and Safety law posters.

As a worker, if you have specific queries or concerns relating to health and safety in your workplace, talk to your employer, manager/supervisor or a health and safety representative.

If you think your employer is exposing you to risks or is not carrying out their legal duties  regards to health and safety and this has been pointed this out to them and no satisfactory response has been received, you can make a complaint to HSE.

What information must employers provide to employees and representatives?

Employers have a responsibility to provide information to all workers that will enable them to know the risks and allow them to participate fully and effectively in consultations about their health and safety.

Information can be provided in whatever form is most suitable, as long as it can be understood by everyone. Employers may need to make special arrangements for employees who do not understand English very well, who cannot read or who have a condition that means they need to be given information in different ways.

Safety representatives are entitled to see copies of any document that employers must keep under health and safety law, for example the important findings of risk assessments or information relating to occurrences of any accident, dangerous occurrence or notifiable industrial disease. See the RIDDOR site.

Employers should give employees and representatives information that lets them understand:

  • what the risks and dangers are for their work, or could be if there are changes to their work which will affect health and safety;
  • what is done, or will be done to reduce or stop the risks and dangers;
  • what they ought to do when they come across a risk or dangerous situation; and
  • the identity of the competent person.

By law, employers do not have to give employees or their representatives any information that:

  • would be against the interests of national security or against the law;
  • is about someone who has not given their permission for it to be shared;
  • would - other than for reasons of its effect on health, safety or welfare - harm the business;
  • is obtained by the employer to bring or defend legal proceedings.

Can safety representatives inspect records of accidents?

If an employer has more than 10 employees, or owns or occupies a mine, quarry or factory, they must keep an accident book under social security law.

Safety representatives are legally entitled to inspect records of accidents that employers have to keep under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR)

The Accident Book BI510 is a valuable document that organisations can use to record accident information as part of their management of health and safety.

A tick box is included on each page of the Accident Book asking whether the injured person gives his or her consent to the disclosure of the information contained in that record to safety representatives.

The employer should:

  • if the injured person has ticked the tick box (and signed the form), disclose the information contained in the accident record, so far as it relates to the injured person, to safety representatives and/or representatives of employee safety;
  • anonymise the information if the injured person does not tick the tick box and disclose it to safety representatives and/or representatives of employee safety.

The arrangements to pass on this information should be discussed between employers, employees and/or their representatives. The aim should be to make the best possible use of this (and other) information to meet health and safety objectives. By following this approach you and your employer will not be infringing the Data Protection Act (DPA) or confidentiality law.

What is 'Whistleblowing'?

'Blowing the whistle' or 'whistleblowing' means that if an employee believes there is wrongdoing in their workplace, ie their employer is committing a criminal offence (this may include, for example, threats to an individual's health and safety) they can report this by following the correct processes, and their employment rights are protected.

What are the entitlements to rest breaks and paid holidays?

There are different entitlements on rest breaks depending upon the terms in  your contract and the type of work you do.  All workers are entitled to paid holidays.

What about being off sick from work?

If you are an employee off sick from work, you can find out practical advice on what you can do, how your employer can help you and where to get more advice.