Education, Education, Education

Can a lack of understanding of health and safety responsibilities really impact on your businesses operations and finances?


Let’s remind ourselves, we all have a business we own, work for or sub-contract for. Every business has a legal duty to put in place suitable arrangements to manage health and safety, The first stage must be to understand what the legislation requires from the business team: ‘Health and Safety Roles and Responsibilities’

In helping many businesses and speaking at many events, I am asked some great questions regarding the health and Safety at work act 1974, a few questions resonate, this question is more frequent than all the others

“what are our responsibilities”

This article has been written to educate all businesses and persons about their health and safety roles and responsibilities and to also highlight when things go wrong under the newly introduced 2016 sentencing guidelines, the outcome is not pleasant.

This article uses many extracts from the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) website, guidance notes and the sentencing council definitive guide in order to educate, educate, educate.


Roles and responsibilities

Managing Director is responsible for the overall arrangements and for ensuring that the company’s operations are executed at all times in such a manner as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all employees and others persons who may be affected by its operations. This may also include you to appoint a Director responsible for health and safety. Note: You’re the one that’s in charge of the whole company. You get many benefits when everything’s going right – but also are responsible when things go wrong. Did you know your responsibility cannot be handed over?

Director Responsible for Health and Safety is accountable to the Managing Director for all matters relating to health, safety and welfare of employees and those affected by the companies operations such as visitors, pedestrians and contractors. You are required to liaise with the Safety Manager/s over the range of their duties and responsibilities such as inspections, audits, report recommendations, changes in legislation and advice obtained from other sources.

Safety Manager/s primary role is to advise the Directors and other Managers on all safety, health and welfare matters to ensure the Company complies with its statutory obligations.

Managers/Department Head/s are responsible for his personal safety and that of all personnel under his or her authority, including others who may be affected by the company’s activities.

General Manager is responsible for his/her personal safety and that of all personnel under his authority, including persons not in his employment who may be affected by the company’s activities.

All Worker/s have a duty to take care of their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by their actions at work. Cooperation with their employers and co-workers is essential to help everyone meet their legal requirements.


The above bullet points will hopefully educate you on the roles and responsibilities in any business, whether a small retail outlet or a large multinational organisation.

If the bulleted list has raised any questions i.e. who does what, who is responsible for that, you get the idea, then I suggest you ask your team/colleagues some very simple questions?

  • Health and safety responsibilities of managers/supervisors
    • are they aware?
    • do they have the training needed?
    • how are they held accountable?
  • Who fulfils the role of the company health and safety competent person?
    • are they qualified and understand the law?
    • are they allowed enough time to implement this role adequately?
  • External provider of competent advice
    • do you need one?
    • are they competent to provide advice to your organisation?
    • do they provide documentation to the management or staff
    • does their documentation suitably cover your business key hazards, assesses the right risks and provides an audit trail?
  • Are your staff and contractors checked for competence before being selected for the task?
  • Have you identified key training workers and the management need?
    • has the necessary level of competence been reached.
    • do you provide update/refresher training so you can evidence reduced skills decay?
    • where are all your health and safety management and training records kept in case a proactive inspection was to happen?

Many of the above points will be asked and will require proof if there was an accident, incident in your company or a proactive inspection by the HSE.


What do you have to do?

All workers have a right to work where risks to their health and safety are properly controlled. The employer has a responsibility, but also workers do too.

Guidance to what employers must do for its employees to operate within the law:

  • In your business, what can cause harm?
    • Once you understand the harm, you need then manage the risks to reduce/stop harm
      • This is commonly known as a risk assessment
  • As an ongoing task, consult with management, safety representatives and workers in eliminating/managing harm in the workplace
  • You must not charge for health and safety training and/or any equipment or protective clothing your staff need to do their job.
  • Other requirements exist, so you can simply check the HSE website for more details

Guidance on what workers must do to operate within the law:

  • Follow the training you have received when using any work items your employer has given you
  • Take reasonable care of your own and other people’s health and safety
  • Ignoring or not complying with the health and safety your company has put in place will only increase your risk and may result in a major injury, which will affect not only you, but also your family and your employers business, so co-operate with the company management on health and safety matters.
  • If you think something is inadequate and is putting anyone’s health and safety at risk, then you must tell someone (your employer, supervisor, or a health and safety representative).
  • Other requirements exist, so you can simply check the HSE website for more details



When roles and responsibilities have not adhered too, poor communication increases and this can create an unsafe workplace along with the potential for a serious maybe fatal accident. This non-compliant business is subject to prosecution.

The sentencing council February 2016 included many changes, but 2 major new additions, in my opinion, will resonate with everyone:


  1. Health and safety offences are concerned with failures to manage risk to health and safety, and do not require proof that the offence… caused any actual harm! The following HSE press release details how a company failed to comply with the health and safety at work regulations, but even though no harm was caused (fortunately), the risk involved was foreseeable and significant. If the gas had ignited the risk of personnel or death or serious injury was extremely high and due to the fine being based on risk, not harm, the company was fined £3m…
  2. Having determined the offence category, the court is required to focus on the organisation’s annual turnover or equivalent to reach a starting point for the fine. The offender is expected to provide comprehensive accounts for the last three years, to enable to court to make an accurate assessment of its financial status. The following Safety & Health Practitioner in-courts press team details the company turnover as £2.7bn. The starting point for the fine at £1.3m and the total fine issued was £2.5m plus costs.

How is the size of the fine determined

Tables are used in determining different sized organisations ‘fine starting point’. For ease, I have simplified the sentencing guidelines tables below:

  • Very large:
    • Where an offending turnover or equivalent very greatly exceeds the threshold for large organisations, it may be necessary to move outside the suggested range.
  • Large:
    • Turnover or equivalent: £50 million and over
      • Starting point £4m
      • Fine range £2.6m – £10m
  • Medium:
    • Turnover or equivalent: between £10 million and £50 million
      • Starting point £1.6m
      • Fine range £1m – £4m
  • Small:
    • Turnover or equivalent: between £2 million and £10 million
    • Starting point £450,000
    • Fine range £300,00 – £1.6m
  • Micro:
    • Turnover or equivalent: not more than £2 million
      • Starting point £250,00
      • Fine range £150,000 – £450,000

To help you understand if there was a failure in health and safety in your company today, we have created a fines calculator  Click here to try it out.



Effectively managing health and safety is not just about having management or using a health and safety management system. The success of whatever process or system you put in place still hinges on the attitudes and behaviours of people in the organisation (this is sometimes referred to as the ‘safety culture’, it is imperative that all your team understands their roles and the responsibilities associated, this will lead to a positive safety culture, increasing safety and reducing incidents.

For the persons who cannot be prevented from accidents (careless workers), you must make sure you have a full audit trail to prove that you as a business really did everything practically possible to prevent harm.


Safety PAL

Health and Safety is not all bad and it really shouldn’t be a burden.
My personal experience in having to deal with “when things go wrong” compelled me to innovate and even revolutionise health and safety help; we have seen a need to use our understanding of the health and safety at work regulations and our real-life accidents and prosecutions and technical expertise to prevent the same happening to you. That’s how Safety PAL was designed and developed.

Our unique application is not built around how your business thinks it needs to manage health and safety! its built around getting your business compliant with health and safety law.


Thank you for taking the time to read this article, please like and re-send to help every business become safer, smarter and better protected.

Karl Spencer, Founder and Managing Director of PAL Software Limited (Safety PAL)

Leave a Reply 0 comments

Leave a Reply: