Have you broken the law?
We all think ourselves as law abiding citizens don’t we? But did you know the average Brit commits 32 offences per year and the majority of the time we have no idea that we’re breaking the law. Among the bizarre laws that may have turned into a minor criminal include singing Happy Birthday in a restaurant. You never see the famous birthday song being sung in films or on the TV and that’s because the rights to the song were purchased by Warner/Chappell for £16million in the 80s so performing this song in public could incur a huge copyright fee! So next time the family whip out the cake in the restaurant, much to your embarrassment, remind them they’re actually breaking the law. Now we’re entitled to our lazy Sundays since law states that hoovering on a Sunday, after 1pm on a Saturday and after 8pm on a weekday would be classed as a nuisance neighbour and you could be classed as breaking the law so next time the other half asks you to whizz the Dyson round at the weekend, remind them you’re actually breaking the law. And how about this law: according to a 1872 law, it is illegal for a landlord/lady to allow drunkenness in their pub…hmmm, I’m not sure I can say I’m totally law-abiding on that one. So along with beeping the horn at that car that cut you up, playing knock down ginger as a child and using some one else’s WiFi without them knowing, we’re not quite the squeaky-clean citizen we thought! This week’s Toolbox Talk is all about your legal duties as an employer and employee so at least we can make sure we’re a little more angelic at work when it comes to the law.
Ever seen that poster?
Does this poster look familiar? You’ve probably strolled past it in your workplace most days but do you know what it says? This poster summarises the Health and Safety Law based on the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and by law must either be displayed or documents provided individually for employees. It is important to understand the law since you cannot comply with it unless you know what the laws are. Ultimately you have the right to work in a safe working environment where the risks are controlled and though your employer is responsible for overall health and safety, everyone has a part to play and an element of responsibility. Really the law requires what good management and common sense would do anyway in terms of assessing the risks and putting in place sensible controls to tackle them. Your Health and Safety Policy (required if you employ over 5 people) should note some of the key principles such as:
You must safeguard your own health and safety and that of those around you that may be affected by your actions
You must cooperate with your employer
You must not interfere with anything provided for health and safety
How to be a law-abiding workplace
Employers have the responsibility to set up the appropriate risk assessments ensuring preventative and protective measures are put in place to keep staff safe in their role. These procedures to control risks must be explained to employees and someone to be appointed as responsible for this area. Planning and organisation of control measures as well as monitoring and review should be a collaborative process where staff as encouraged to contribute to helping control the risks in the workplace. Training and advice should be provided free of charge and supervision given as well as ensuring your job is appropriate to your level of experience. Protective clothing and equipment should be allocated free of charge but it is the responsibility of staff to use PPE in accordance with training, report any damages or losses and store it correctly. Toilet, washing and first aid facilities must be provided as well as drinking water. Reports and records of injuries and incidents must be reporting to the correct body (Incident Contact Centre 0345 300 9923 or www.hse.gov.uk) and such accident reports retained and acted on to review health and safety procedures. Companies should have the appropriate insurance with a hard copy displayed where it can easily be read.
What if I feel unsafe?
If you are worried about health and safety in your workplace, the first port of call is to talk to your employer. If you seek more advice you can find further information on the hse.gov.uk website. Finally if you are still worried look for the address of your local enforcing authority for health and safety and the Employment Medical Advisory Service which can be found on the hse.gov.uk website