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Small businesses often ask about the legal documentation required in relation to health and safety.
This page is our guide to the basic paperwork required to meet health and safety obligations.
If you employ five or more people you must have a written health and safety policy. This contains your statement of general policy on health and safety at work and the organisation and arrangements for putting this into practice.
Although not legally required to do so, businesses with less than five employees should also consider having such a policy as good practice.
A written policy could prove useful if visited by an enforcing officer.
For further guidance, see our page on health and safety policies.
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You should strengthen your health and safety policy by carrying out risk assessments of your workplace – careful examinations of what could cause harm, and who might be affected.
Again, if you have more than five employees, you must record the significant findings of this exercise.
For further guidance, see our page on risk assessment.
The requirement to register your business with the enforcing authorities has been removed. From 6 April 2009 employers will no longer need to complete forms F9 and OSR1 and send them to the HSE or local authority.
While the general requirement to register your business has been removed, some businesses will still need to register under other regulations that will apply to them. Examples include food and catering premises who need to be registered to ensure they are meeting food hygiene standards, and businesses storing, using and/or transporting hazardous substances as part of the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations.
If you are unsure whether you need to register with an enforcing authority, please contact our Adviceline on 0800 019 2211
You must, by law, obtain and display this insurance certificate if you have one or more employees. You can display it either: As a paper copy, e.g. as a photocopy pinned to a notice board, electronically, e.g. as a page on your intranet or as a document in a shared folder on your network. You also need to make these certificates available to health and safety inspectors on request. Further information is given in the free leaflet Employers’ Liability Compulsory Insurance Act 1969 – A guide for employers– HSE 40.
Download or order Employers’ Liability Compulsory Insurance Act 1969 – A guide for employers HSE40REV1 (external site)
Although not a legal requirement, we would recommend that you consider Public Liability Insurance too, particularly if you are working with the public or in other people's premises.
Management committees should appoint one of their members to be responsible for health and safety matters. It is also important that management committees set out their expectations of senior managers who have health and safety responsibilities and the arrangements for keeping the committee informed and advised of all relevant matters concerning performance.
The committee needs to accept, formally and publicly, its collective role in providing health and safety leadership within the organisation. The health and safety policy documentation needs to reflect this.
To assist with their duties, each organisation must appoint competent individuals. Employers are solely responsible for ensuring that those they appoint are competent to carry out the tasks they are assigned, and are given adequate information and support.
In making decisions on who to appoint, employers themselves need to know and understand the work involved, the principles of risk assessment and prevention, and current legislation and health and safety standards. Employers should ensure that anyone they appoint is capable of applying the above to whatever task they are assigned.
All workers and volunteers must:
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has produced a useful free guide for those with directorial responsibilities, including management committees:
Download or order the leaflet Leading in Health and Safety – Leadership action for directors and board members (external site)
Employers must inform their employees about certain aspects of health and safety law and how it applies to them.
The easiest way to do this is to display the poster Health and Safety Law – What you should know. An individual leaflet is also available. Both can be ordered online from HSE Books: HSE has published a new, simplified version of the Health and Safety Law Poster. It tells workers what they and their employers need to do in simple terms, using numbered lists of basic points. As an employer, you are required by law to either display the HSE-approved poster or to provide each of your workers with this equivalent pocket card. The old style poster or leaflet can still be used until 5 April 2014 as long as they are readable and contain up to date contact details.
Download or order new approved pocket card Health and Safety Law – What you should know (external site)
Order the poster Health and Safety Law –- What you should know (external site)
The new approved poster does still have optional boxes where details of any employee health and safety representatives and other health and safety contacts can be added. It is not a legal requirement to include this information, but it may be helpful to workers.
Employers must consider how to communicate essential information to workers who do not speak or read English, or who may have difficulty understanding written or spoken English.
Employers may need to deliver information through a translator or use visual presentations, rather than delivering written or oral instructions. Some employers are making more use of photographs and diagrams in work instructions, etc.
Employers should also consider whether workplace safety signs and signals can be clearly understood and make changes where appropriate.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides many of their publications in multiple languages. A full list of available publications can be viewed via the HSE's Other Languages pages (external site).
Details of all incidents, injuries and dangerous occurrences must be recorded in an accident book. A new version of the accident book was introduced in 2003 to ensure compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998.
The HSE Accident Book (BI510) is available from HSE Books and can be ordered online:
Order Accident Book BI510 (external site)
For further guidance, see our section on Recording and Reporting Accidents, Ill Health and Near Misses.
→ Who is responsible for health and safety in voluntary organisations?
→ What health and safety information do I need to give my foreign workers?
The links below are to publications pages that give you the option to download these resources.
Free and priced guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Links below are to publications pages on the HSE Books website giving options to order or download the following resources:
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