Health and safety in the workplace

Being safe at work is important. It is a responsibility shared by both the employer and the employee.

For employers, one of the fundamental principles of workplace health and safety is risk assessment which identifies all the hazards and potential for harm whilst working. For more details on relevant legislation and specific types of risk assessment, visit the Health and Safety Executive website.

Employers must provide information and training on risk at work and on safe working practices. Employees must comply with safety requirements at work and take all reasonable precautions to keep safe.

Find out more about:

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations require employers to assess and manage risk relating to chemicals, dusts and microbiological or infectious hazards.

Full risk assessments must be completed to identify risk and measures taken to reduce any risk as far as possible.

Where a significant risk is identified, the following steps have to be considered:

  • Elimination
  • Substitution
  • Containment
  • General ventilation
  • Local exhaust ventilation
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Immunisation

Employers must provide their staff with information and training about these risks and how to manage them.

Where appropriate, regular health checks may be needed to ensure any health effects are identified as soon as possible.

We can advise on health surveillance and immunisation programmes if needed.

For more details about the regulations and how to apply them, see the Health and Safety Executive website.

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Manual handling

Manual handling is a common cause of workplace injuries. It can include lifting, pushing, pulling, lowering and carrying. The regulations for manual handling at work require employers to assess and manage risk relating to the moving and handling of loads. Any risk assessment for manual handling must include the following considerations:

  • Load: loads may include animals and people, such as patients in hospital. For inanimate objects it may be possible to reduce the load by dividing it into smaller loads.
  • Task: what we do with the load. It is this that can create the risk of injury. It is usually how we move the load that causes the problem rather than the load itself. Often, basic equipment, such as a trolley, is sufficient but sometimes much more specialised equipment is required.
  • Environment: includes how we place ourselves within the environment. It is important to make sure that there is sufficient space to move the load safely.
  • Individual capability: an individual's capability may add to the risk in manual handling. This may be to do with the general physique of the individual or if they have an illness, physical injury or disability which affects their physical capability.

The Health and Safety Executive provides further information on manual handling and a useful guide to manual handling at work.

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Pregnancy and work

Managers should perform a risk assessment of a woman's work when she informs them that she is pregnant.

Physical effort

Employers should reduce heavy physical activities and lifting for pregnant workers where possible, particularly in late pregnancy. However, if a pregnant worker who has been informed of the possible risk wishes to continue then there are insufficient grounds to impose restrictions against her will.

Working hours

Employers should reduce long working hours for pregnant workers, particularly in late pregnancy. Where possible, hours should be limited to about 40 per week. Again, if a pregnant worker who has been informed of the possible risk wishes to continue then the employer cannot enforce these restrictions.

Shift work

There is insufficient evidence of a risk to pregnant women to make recommendations to restrict shift work, including rotating shifts or night and evening work. Leaflets about physical and shift work in pregnancy for employers, employees, and healthcare workers give further information. For more detailed information, see the national guideline.

The Health and Safety Executive website gives further advice for new and expectant mothers, their employers and also a brief guide to health and safety for new and expectant mothers who work.

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Working with computers

If you use a computer and monitor regularly, you should ensure you understand how to adjust the equipment to provide a comfortable way of working. Your workstation should be assessed; in most workplaces you carry out this assessment yourself using your Trust or company policy for guidance.

The Health and Safety Executive provides more information for employers about their responsibilities under the display screen equipment (DSE) at work regulations, including information about workstation assessments.
Find out more about display screen equipment on the HSE website

Ensuring an ergonomic workstation – tips for staff

As you turn on our computer, stop and think:

  • Check your posture
  • Sit back in your chair and use the back rest for support
  • Raise your seat to allow you to keep your forearms horizontal and your shoulders relaxed
  • Your wrists should be straight when your hands are on the keyboard?
  • Are your feet comfortable on the floor or do you need a footrest?
  • Remove all obstacles under or around your desk, to avoid awkward postures
  • Ensure your work area is tidy and well organised
  • Can you read the screen? Ensure the viewing distance is comfortable and that there are no problems with glare or reflections
  • Adjust your screen brightness and contrast controls to suit the office lighting level
  • Position your copy stand at the same height and viewing distance as your screen
  • Ensure you stretch and change your posture frequently and use your breaks effectively to perform other tasks
  • If you expect to use a computer regularly, you should have your vision assessed when you start work if you have not seen an optician in recent years

You may be entitled to an eyesight check paid for by your employer to determine the need for special lenses when using the computer. For example, some people, usually those who need reading glasses, may need to have special glasses to use a computer. Check your employer's policy on the arrangements for this before purchasing any special glasses.
Download HSE leaflet about working safely with display screen equipment

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Occupational dermatitis and latex allergy

Work-related skin problems are common, especially on the hands. These can be caused by frequent hand-washing and contact with soaps and chemicals. If you are concerned about your skin and have symptoms, such as redness, dryness or cracking, ask your manager to seek advice from your occupational health service.

If latex is used in your workplace, your employer should have done a risk assessment and taken steps to minimise the risks to your health. For employees who are allergic to latex, avoiding latex will reduce symptoms. Alternative products such as vinyl or nitrile gloves can be substituted.

If you are concerned about skin or respiratory symptoms occurring in relation to latex ask your manager to seek occupational health advice.

For more information about skin problems and latex allergy at work, see the Health and Safety Executive website.

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Contact details:

Address: Ground Floor, South Wing, St Pancras Hospital, 4 St Pancras Way, London NW1 0PE
Phone: 020 3317 3350
Fax: 020 3317 3360

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