Getting help and advice about workplace safety
You have the right under UK law: *
To work in a safe workplace.
To be provided with any personal protective and safety equipment free of charge
To stop work and leave your work area, without being disciplined if you have reasonable concerns about your safety
To work in reasonable temperatures
To have rest breaks during the working day
To have time off from work during the working week
To have annual paid holiday
To not be disciplined if you contact the Health and Safety Executive, if your employer won't listen to your concerns
The main UK legislation covering occupational health and safety is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974,which makes employers responsible for the management of health and safety. It sets out the general duties which employers have towards employees and members of the public, and employees have to themselves and to each other.
The law requires employers to create a written policy which explains how they will manage health and safety, and consult with staff on this process. This includes explicit duties around specific hazards, the use of computers, working with chemicals, work equipment, manual handling, radiation, protective equipment and the working environment. Under health and safety law, employers are responsible for your safety and the safety of your work colleagues. They must also ensure the health and safety of people who don’t work for them, such as visitors, contractors, or members of the public.
Your employer must tell you about risks to your health and safety from current or proposed working practices and equipment, and they must tell you what they are doing to protect your health and safety. They also need to tell you what to do in an emergency and how to get first aid treatment. They must provide you with protective equipment when this is needed, train you how to work safely and without risking your health, and provide health checks if there is a danger of you becoming ill because of your work.
Employers should ensure that temperatures and environmental conditions do not affect your health and safety. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations require that the temperature in indoor workplaces must be “reasonable and that the temperature inside a workplace should normally be at least 16°C (61°F) and, if the work involves rigorous physical effort, then this should be at least 13°C (55°F). The regulations also state that workers under the age of 18 must not be employed in situations where there is a health risk posed by extremes of heat or cold.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations Act 2002 cover all substances that can damage your health and requires employers to either prevent exposure to hazardous substances or reduce exposure to as low as is reasonably practicable. Employers must carry out a risk assessment before you start work with any hazardous substance.
Personal protective equipment, like masks or gloves, should be used only as a last resort if there is no other way to reduce exposure. Employers must tell you about the hazards and risks of any substances you are required to work with and how to keep yourself safe. In some cases, employers will have to monitor your health if you work with hazardous substances in order to check whether the steps they are taking to reduce exposure are working. Different substances will require employers to take different steps but the overarching principles are always the same.
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations Act 2005 requires all employers to eliminate excessive noise or, if that is not possible, reduce it to as low a level as is reasonably practicable. If your average exposure to noise is noise is between 80 and 85 dB(A) then employers must provide you with ear protection and they must also give you information on the risk and what measures can be taken to protect your hearing. Ear protection must be worn if the noise level reaches 85 dB(A) and employers must mark where is it to be worn and provide you with training and information on how to use it. Employers must also provide you with hearing checks if you are likely to be regularly exposed to noise above 85 dB(A).
Although there are dozens of laws designed to keep you safe at work, there were over 140 work-related deaths last year, and many more very serious injuries.
To enable your workplace to have a reasonable temperature your employer should provide good ventilation, which should consist of a steady flow of fresh or purified air. This can be done using open windows or using air cooling plants or air conditioning units.
Your union representative is your starting point for getting help from us with any problem at work.
Sometimes members feel that they can sort things out on their own, but it is important to talk to your union representative as soon as possible. Sometimes trying to sort out an issue without proper advice can make the problem much worse. We are here to help you and you can contact your union representative by calling 0333 2423 526.
Your union representative will discuss the situation with you, agree a way forward with you and together they will help you achieve the best possible outcome for you.
You have a legal right to belong to a trade union and your employer is forbidden from treating you unfavourably because you join a trade union, take part in trade union activities or use the services trade unions provide for their members. You also have a right to be accompanied by a trade union representative at any grievance meetings, disciplinary hearings and disciplinary appeals.
* From the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974)