Keeping it Legal – Health and Safety

Complying with the law might seem a little bit daunting, especially to those who are new to running a business. But most people find it straightforward and painless.
Taking the necessary steps to get it right can give you peace of mind, which will leave you free to get on with running your business.

What follows is basic legal information about tax, VAT, health and safety, the environment, planning permission, licensing and data protection. Although useful, it is intended only as a basic introduction. If you are ever in any doubt, seek professional legal advice or contact the relevant agencies.

Health and safety

Businesses with employees who work in an office, shop, warehouse or catering or leisure facility need to register with their local authority (usually its environmental health department). Most other businesses come under the jurisdiction of the Health & Safety Executive.

New commercial and industrial businesses must notify the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) or a local authority inspector.

Businesses involved with food and drink are affected by environmental health regulations and food hygiene regulations.

You are responsible for the health and safety of your employees, visitors and customers. You must display a HSE Health and Safety notice if you have employees. If you have five employees or more, you must have a written health and safety policy.

You must carry out a risk assessment of your workplace, too. Health is just as important as safety, so consider noise levels, the lifting and carrying of objects and smoking policies.

From October 2006, businesses will no longer have to hold a fire certificate. However, all businesses will be required to show they have carried out fire-risk assessments and that they have adequate controls in place. For further information, contact your local fire safety officer.

You must provide rest areas, drinking water, adequate lighting, sufficient ventilation and clean and functioning toilets for your employees.

Each employee should have at least 11 cubic metres of space to work in. The temperature of the workplace mshould be at least 16 degrees celsius where staff remain stationary and 13 degrees celsius where active.

Employees mustn’t be subjected to excessive exposure to computer screens without rest breaks. Workstations must be adjustable, too. Thhere are also regulations on noise and handling hazardous substances. Visit www.hse.gov.uk or more.