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Health & Safety
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1.1 What is Health and Safety all about?
Preventing people from being harmed by work, or becoming ill by taking the right precautions and providing a satisfactory environment.
1.2 Do Health and Safety laws apply to me?
Yes to all businesses, however small; also to the self-employed and to employees.
1.3 How can I find out more/keep up-to-date with Health and Safety?
The most up-to-date information is available on the HSE’s website in the form of news concerning HSE campaigns, free information leaflets and the main issues currently influencing health and safety – www.hse.gov.uk. Subscription services and some publications are available from HSE books – 01787 881165.
1.4 Who enforces Health and Safety Law?
The Local Authority enforces health and safety law in the following types of businesses:
- Retail or wholesale
- Hotel and Catering
- Sports or leisure (non-Council)
- Residential accommodation, excluding nursing homes
- Places of worship
- Pre-school childcare
- Mobile vending
For all other types of business it will be the Health & Safety Executive.
1.5 What do enforcement officers actually do?
They visit workplaces to check that people are complying with the law. They investigate some accidents and complaints and give advice to employers and employees. Click to download a free copy of the following leaflet:(.pdf 1.1Mb)
1.6 Does Health and Safety legislation apply to Volunteers working for charities?
Where any organisation has at least one paid employee, it is considered to be an ’employer’ for the purposes of the Health & Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 and the regulations made under it.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 place a duty on both employers and the self-employed to assess the risks to employees and anyone else (e.g. voluntary workers, clients and customers) who may be affected by the work activities being undertaken. As a result of this assessment, appropriate preventive and protective measures have to be taken to reduce the risks identified if they are not being adequately controlled at present. Some of the regulations listed later describe specific protective and preventive measures that have to be taken in certain circumstances or when undertaking particular activities.
In general, the same health and safety standards should be applied to voluntary workers as they would to employees exposed to the same risks. However, if the risk assessment shows that the risks to voluntary workers are different, the preventive and protective measures taken should reflect the different risks.
HSE considers it good practice for a volunteer user to provide the same level of health and safety protection as they would in an employer/employee relationship, irrespective of whether there are strict legal duties.
1.7 Do I need to have employers liability compulsory insurance?
Yes it’s the law if you employ anyone – and you should display the certificate in the workplace.
1.8 I will be hiring agency workers, what do I need to consider?
If you hire agency workers, you must tell the employment business (agency) hiring them to you about the risk to the worker’s health and safety and steps you have taken to control them.
2.1 What is an appointed person?
When an employer’s first aid needs assessment identifies that a first aider is not necessary, the minimum requirement is to appoint a person to:
- take charge when someone is injured or ill, including calling an ambulance if required;
- look after the first aid equipment, eg restocking the first aid box.
2.2 Can appointed persons perform first aid, eg cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)?
Appointed persons should not attempt to give first aid for which they have not been trained.
2.3 Are appointed persons required to take an approved training course in first aid?
There are no legal requirements for appointed persons to have any approved training in order to carry out their responsibilities. However, there are courses available for appointed persons.
First aid box
2.4 What should a first aid box in the workplace contain?
There is no mandatory list of contents for first aid boxes. Deciding what to include should be based on the employer’s assessment of first aid needs. A suggested list of contents, where there is no special risk in the workplace, is given in(.pdf 73Kb). Equivalent but different items will be considered acceptable. Any items in the first aid box that have passed their expiry date should be disposed of safely.
In general, tablets and medication should not be kept in the first aid box.
2.5 How often should the contents of first aid boxes be replaced?
Although there is no specified review timetable, many items, particularly sterile ones, are marked with ‘best before dates’. Such items should be replaced by the dates given. In cases where sterile items have no dates, it would be advisable to check with the manufacturers to find out how long they can be kept. For non-sterile items without dates, it is a matter of judgement, based on whether they are fit for purpose.
First Aid Equipment
2.6 What first aid equipment should be provided?
Once an assessment of first aid needs has been carried out, the findings can be used to decide what first aid equipment should be provided in the workplace. The minimum level of first aid equipment is a suitably stocked first aid box. The assessment may indicate that additional materials and equipment are required such as scissors, adhesive tape, disposable aprons and individually wrapped moist wipes. They may be put in the first aid container if there is room or stored separately.
There may be a need for items such as protective equipment where first aiders may have to enter dangerous atmospheres. This should be securely stored near the first aid box, in the first aid room or the hazard area, as appropriate. Access to the equipment should be restricted to those trained in its use.
If mains tap water is not readily available for eye irrigation, at least one litre of sterile water or sterile normal saline (0.9%) in sealed, disposable containers should be provided. When the seal has been broken, the container should not be reused. The container should not be used beyond its expiry date.
First aid for travelling, remote and lone workers
2.7 I have employees who travel regularly or work elsewhere, what should I do about first aid provision for them?
Employers are responsible for meeting the first aid needs of their employees working away from the main site. Employers’ assessment of first aid needs should determine whether:
- those who travel long distances or are continuously mobile should carry a personal first aid box;
- special arrangements need to be made for employees who work in remote areas; and
First aid rooms
2.8 Do I need to provide a room for first aid?
You should provide a suitable first aid room or rooms where your assessment of first aid needs identifies this as necessary.
2.9 What should be kept in the first aid room?
The room should contain essential first aid facilities and equipment. Typical examples of these are:
- a sink with hot and cold running water;
- drinking water and disposable cups;
- soap and paper towels;
- a store for first aid materials;
- foot-operated refuse containers, lined with disposable yellow clinical waste bags or a container for the safe disposal of clinical waste;
- a couch with waterproof protection, clean pillows and blankets;
- a chair;
- a telephone or other communication equipment;
- a record book for recording incidents where first aid has been given.
2.10 Who should have access to the first aid room?
If possible, the room should be reserved specifically for providing first aid and your designated person (first aider or appointed person) should be given responsibility for the room. It should be easily accessible to stretchers and be clearly signposted and identified
2.11 How many first aiders do I need?
There is no definitive answer. It will largely depend on the outcome of your assessment of first aid needs. The table on pages 6-7 of the leaflet First aid at work: your questions answered, provides some guidance on the number of first aiders, depending on the nature of the work carried out and number of employees.
2.12 Can legal action be taken against first aiders?
It is very unlikely that any action would be taken against a first aider who was using the first aid training they have received. HSE cannot give any specific advice on this issue as it has no expertise in this area and it does not fall within HSE’s statutory powers. It is recommended that you seek legal advice, or advice from your employer’s insurance brokers on whether their policies cover first aiders’ liability.
2.13 Does my employee need to do any training to be a first aider?
Yes. If you have identified that your workplace needs first aiders, they must have completed a first aid at work course provided by an HSE approved training organisation.
2.14 Do I need to record incidents requiring the attention of a first aider?
HSE recommends that it is good practice to provide your first aiders/ appointed persons with a book in which to record incidents that required their attendance. The information kept can help you identify accident trends and possible areas for improvement in the control of health and safety risks. It can also be used for reference in future first aid needs assessments. This record book is not the same as the statutory accident book though the two could be combined.
There is a legal requirement to report accidents and ill health at work. Information on the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 is given in the HSE leaflet(.pdf 164Kb).
2.15 What information should be recorded?
Useful information to record might include:
- date, time and place of incident;
- name and job of the injured or ill person;
- details of the injury/illness and what first aid was given;
- what happened to the person immediately afterwards (for example went home, went back to work, went to hospital);
- name and signature of the first aider or person dealing with the incident.
2.16 Who is responsible for keeping the records?
It is usually the first aider or appointed person who looks after the book. However, employers have overall responsibility. Tablets and medication
2.17 Are first aiders allowed to give tablets and medication to casualties?
HSE guidance in the Approved Code of Practice and Guidance: First aid at work. The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1982, states that first aid at work does not include giving tablets or medication to treat illness and such items should not be kept in the first aid box. However, strictly speaking, there is no legal bar to employers making such items available to employees, if the assessment of first aid needs indicates they should be provided. HSE has no objection to paracetamol or aspirin being made available in the workplace. First aiders administering these tablets should have a reasonable understanding of what is involved.
HSE has no objection to employers providing vending machines for dispensing paracetamol. It is preferable that these machines are not located in areas where the public will have access to them.
Some workers carry their own medication such as inhalers for asthma or ‘Epipens’ which contain injectable adrenaline for the treatment of severe allergic (anaphylactic) reactions, for example to peanuts. These medications are prescribed by a doctor. If an individual needs to take their own prescribed medication, the first aider’s role is limited to helping them do so and contacting the emergency services as appropriate. Medicines legislation restricts the administration of injectable medicines. Unless self administered, they may only be administered by or in accordance with the instructions of a doctor (eg by a nurse). However, in the case of adrenaline there is an exemption to this restriction which means in an emergency, a suitably trained lay person is permitted to administer it by injection for the purpose of saving life. The use of an Epipen to treat anaphylactic shock falls into this category. Therefore, first aiders may administer an Epipen if they are dealing with a life threatening emergency in a casualty who has been prescribed and is in possession of an Epipen and where the first aider is trained to use it. The use of tablets and medication in the context of first aid provision in the offshore industry is dealt with separately.
3. ACCIDENTS IN THE WORKPLACE
3.1 What type of accident do I need to report to the enforcing authority?
You must report any accident which causes:
- An employee to be killed or suffer a major injury
- A member of the public to be killed or have to be taken to hospital
- An employee to be away from work for three days or more
- If a doctor notifies you that your employee suffers from a reportable work related disease
3.2 What is a ’major injury’?
Major injuries are:
- Fracture other than to fingers, thumbs or toes
- Dislocation of the shoulder, hip, knee or spine
- Chemical or hot metal burn to the eye or any penetrating injury to the eye
3.3 How do I report an accident?
All reportable accidents should be reported to your local authority using a(.pdf 14Kb).
3.4 Do I need a Health and Safety Poster and where can I obtain one?
If you employ staff you must either display a Health and Safety Law Poster (ISBN 07176 2493 5) or give a Health and Safety Law leaflet to each employee.
4. RISK ASSESSMENT
4.1 What is meant by "hazard and risk"?
A hazard means anything that can cause harm (e.g. chemicals, electricity, working at height, machinery etc). Risk is the change, high or low, that somebody will be harmed by the hazard.
4.2 Do I need to register my business?
If you are a new business you will need to register with HSE or us – depending on the sort of business you have. For the Local Authority you should complete(.pdf 158Kb) (notice of persons in office, shop or certain railway premises) or the (.doc 21Kb).
4.3 How do I carry out a risk assessment?
A risk assessment should involve the identification of significant hazards present in a working environment or arising out of commercial activities and work activities. Click to download the free HSE leaflet(.pdf 78Kb).
5. HEALTH AND SAFETY POLICY
5.1 What is a health and safety policy?
A health and safety policy means the health and safety arrangements i.e. the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventative and protective measures. If there are 5 or more employees these arrangements must be recorded. If there are less than 5 employees the appropriate arrangements still need to be in place.(.pdf 2.1Mb)
6. THE WORKPLACE
6.1 What are the highest and lowest temperatures that I am allowed to work in?
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require that during working hours the temperatures inside buildings shall be reasonable.
It would be reasonable to expect a temperature in an office environment to be at least 16°c after the first hour. Where the temperature in the workplace is uncomfortably high all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a comfortable temperature e.g. by providing air-cooling plant, shading windows, provision of fans.
6.2 Working alone, what should I consider?
Your employer must carry out a risk assessment and then take any reasonable steps to ensure you can work safely.
6.3 Does my employer have to provide drinking water at work?
The Workplaces (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1993 require your employer to provide an adequate supply.
6.4 Does my workplace need to have artificial ventilation?
Workplaces need to be adequately ventilated. It will depend on the workplace whether windows will be sufficient or mechanical ventilation will need to be provided.
6.5 How many Toilets should a workplace have?
The relevant legislation is the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1993 Regulation 20, Sanitary conveniences, states:
1. Suitable and sufficient sanitary conveniences shall be provided at readily accessible places.
2. Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (1), sanitary conveniences shall not be suitable unless -
(a) the rooms containing them are adequately ventilated and lit;
(b) they and the rooms containing them are kept in a clean and orderly condition; and
(c) separate rooms containing conveniences are provided for men and women except where and so far as each convenience is in a separate room the door of which is capable of being secured from inside.
The Approved code of practice goes on to give minimum numbers of facilities:
(The number of people at work shown in column 1 refers to the maximum number likely to be in the workplace at any one time)
Number of toilets and washbasins for mixed use (or women only):
|No. of people at work||No. of toilets||No. of Wash basins|
Toilets used by men only:
|No. of people at work||No. of toilets||No. of Urinals|
7. WORK AT HEIGHTS
7.1 Do the new Work at Height Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005 ban the use of ladders?
No. They require that ladders should only be considered where a risk assessment has shown that the use of other suitable work equipment is not appropriate because of the low risk and short duration of the task or considerations of where the work is located.
8. WORKING WITH VDUs
8.1 Should VDU users be given breaks?
The relevant regulations are the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1992. Regulation 4, is concerned with the daily activities of users and states:
’Every employer shall so plan the activities of users at work in his undertaking that their daily work on display screen equipment is periodically interrupted by such breaks or changes of activity as reduce their workload at that equipment.’
The guidance states:
In most tasks, natural breaks or pauses occur as a consequence of the inherent organisation of the work. Whenever possible, jobs at display screens should be designed to consist of a mix of screen-based and non screen-based work to prevent fatigue and to vary visual and mental demands. Where the job unavoidably contains spells of intensive display screen work (whether using the keyboard or input device, reading the screen, or a mixture of the two), these should be broken up by periods of non-intensive, non-display screen work. Where work cannot be so organised, e.g. in jobs requiring only data or text entry requiring sustained attention and concentration, deliberate breaks or pauses must be introduced.
Where the display screen work involves intensive use of the keyboard, any activity that would demand broadly similar use of the arms or hands should be avoided during breaks. Similarly, if the display screen work is visually demanding any activities during breaks should be of a different visual character. Breaks must also allow users to vary their posture. Exercise routines which include blinking, stretching and focusing eyes on distant objects can be helpful and could be covered in training programmes.
It is not appropriate to lay down requirements for breaks which apply to all types of work; it is the nature and mix of demands made by the job which determine the length of break necessary to prevent fatigue. But some general guidance can be given:
- breaks should be taken before the onset of fatigue, not in order to recuperate and when performance is at a maximum, before productivity reduces. The timing of the break is more important than its length;
- breaks or changes of activity should be included in working time. They should reduce the workload at the screen, i.e. should not result in a higher pace or intensity of work on account of their introduction;
- short, frequent breaks are more satisfactory than occasional, longer breaks: e.g., a 5-10 minute break after 50-60 minutes continuous screen and/or keyboard work is likely to be better than a 15 minute break every 2 hours;
- if possible, breaks should be taken away from the screen;
- Informal breaks, that is time spent not viewing the screen (e.g. on other tasks), appear from study evidence to be more effective in relieving visual fatigue than formal rest breaks;
- wherever practicable, users should be allowed some discretion as to how they carry out tasks; individual control over the nature and pace of work allows optimal distribution of effort over the working day.
8.2 Am I entitled to an eyesight test if I work on a VDU?
The regulations that cover VDU work are the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1992. Regulation 5 covers the employers responsibility for providing eyesight tests and states:
Where a person -
- is already a user on the date of coming into force of these regulations; or
- is an employee who does not habitually use display screen equipment as a significant part of his normal work but is to become a user in the undertaking in which he is already employed,
His employer shall ensure that he is provided at his request with an appropriate eye and eyesight test, any such test to be carried out by a competent person.
The guidance states:
Employers have a duty to ensure the provision of appropriate eye and eyesight tests on request:
- to their employees who are already users when the Regulations come into force;
- and (thereafter) to any of their non-user employees who are to become users.
The Regulations do not give employers any duty to offer eye and eyesight tests to persons not in their employment, such as applicants for jobs. However, where somebody has been recruited and is to work with display screen equipment to the extent that they will become a user, Regulation 5(1)(b) becomes applicable. Hence where a newly recruited employee of this kind - whether or not they have been a user in any previous employment in a different undertaking - requests one, an appropriate eye and eyesight test should be arranged by their new employer. The test should be carried out before the newly recruited employee becomes a user, as required by Regulation 5(2)(b). This does not mean that new recruits must be given a test before doing any display screen work, but they would have to be given a test (if they requested one) before doing sufficient display screen work for this to be regarded as a significant part of their normal work.