How should my employer deal with hazards?

The basic rule is that employers must adapt the work to the worker. The key aims of risk assessment are to:

  • prioritise the risks – i.e. rank them in order of seriousness; and
  • make all risks small – the two main options here are to:
    • eliminate the hazard altogether; or
    • if this is not possible, control the risks so that harm is unlikely.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 set out safety management guidance for employers for tackling risks, which you can find in schedule 1 (General Principles of Prevention). The basic approach is also known as a 'hierarchy of control' because it sets out the order in which employers must approach risk management:

  1. Substitution (i.e. try a risk-free or less risky option).
  2. Prevention (e.g. erect a machine guard, or add a non-slip surface to a pathway).
  3. Reorganise work to reduce exposure to a risk. A basic rule is to adapt the work to the worker. In an office, ensure chairs and display screen equipment (DSE) are adjustable to the individual, and plan all work involving a computer to include regular breaks. For monotonous or routine work, introduce work variety and greater control over work. In call centres, introduce work variety by providing work off the phones and varying the type of calls handled.
  4. As a last resort, issue personal protective equipment (PPE) to all staff at risk, and make sure they are trained in when and how to use this equipment, such as appropriate eye protection, gloves, special clothing, footwear.
  5. Provide training in safe working systems.
  6. Provide information on likely hazards and how to avoid them.
  7. Provide social and welfare facilities, such as washing facilities for the removal of contamination, or a rest room.
Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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