Every employer must comply with health and safety regulations intended to protect people such as employees, customers and members of the public. Many self-employed people whose work activities pose no potential risk of causing harm to others are exempt from health and safety law in England, Wales and Scotland.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides guidance and enforces the regulations in England, Wales and Scotland, and the Health and Safety Executive NI (HSENI) enforces the regulations in Northern Ireland.

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

All employers in the UK are legally obliged to consider the health and safety of their employees, and anyone else affected by their work activities. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 is the main piece of health and safety legislation that every employer must comply with.

See also: An overview of employment law for rural business owners

The Act places statutory duties on employers and the self-employed in relation to the health, safety and welfare of their employees and anyone else affected by their business activities, such as contractors, customers and members of the public.

The Act stipulates that employers must:

  • Identify risks at work and any possible precautions against those risks
  • Identify the person responsible for implementing the precautions
  • Provide a means of carrying out their health and safety policy and establish a procedure for reporting accidents
  • Identify legal standards that apply in each part of the workplace
  • Have a written statement of general policy (if they have five or more employees) with respect to health and safety at work

Since the introduction of the Act, various other regulations have been introduced to address and enforce specific areas of workplace health and safety in more detail.

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