The health and safety of employees, workers and contractors is established under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
The Act set out the general principles to be followed by employers governing the health and safety at work of employees.
An employer also has a duty under common law to ensure the safety of his employees – and may be liable for accidents caused by employees acting in the course of their employment.
Employers must ensure that employees are properly trained and supervised – and that a risk assessment is carried out before work begins on a specific task.
Equipment and machinery must also be checked regularly – with employees aware of any safety procedures regarding machinery. Guards must also be used on machinery to ensure employees cannot access the moving parts of a machine, including when a machine is being cleaned.
A failure by an employer to have regard for the safety of his employees can be considered a fundamental breach of contract – which entitles the employee to resign and claim that he has been constructively dismissed.
The Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996) provides that certain dismissals in Health and Safety cases are to be automatically unfair – and protects employees from unfavourable treatment in such cases.
Employees who are injured at work are also entitled to statutory sick pay up to 28 weeks. After six months’ sick leave for injuries sustained as a result of a health and safety breach, an employee may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), plus other welfare benefits.
Accidents at work and long-term exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace can not only ruin lives, but can prove fatal. It is vital to take legal advice as soon as possible if a health and safety matter at work is ongoing before serious injury occurs.