Duties of your employer

Health and safety laws clearly place most health and safety duties with the employer.

The employer is deemed to be the:

  • local authority (LA) in community schools, community special schools, voluntary-controlled schools, maintained nursery schools and pupil referral units

  • governing body in foundation schools, foundation special schools, voluntary-aided schools and academies

  • governing body or proprietor in independent schools

  • college governing body or trustee in incorporated colleges of further education.

The main duties of the employer

These main duties of the employer are to:

  • provide all necessary information, instruction, training and supervision to enable individuals to be safe

  • provide and maintain a safe place of work with safe entry and exit

  • provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risk to health

  • provide and maintain systems of work that are safe

  • arrange for the safe use, handling, storage and transport of articles and substances.

Clearly, it is impossible to remove all risks and hazards from any working environment. The law recognises this and qualifies all the duties listed above with the term 'so far as is reasonably practicable'. This means that the level of risk involved can be balanced against the time, trouble, cost and difficulty of taking measures to remove the risk.

With some specific legislation, however, the duties are absolute, ie the cost of a preventative measure has no bearing upon whether it should be implemented.

Health, safety and welfare policy

The employer is obliged to produce a written safety policy that states the organisation's commitment to the health, safety and welfare of its employees and others. The employer must state how health and safety is to be organised and by whom, and detail the arrangements for how health and safety is implemented (usually through site-specific rules and procedures).

Where the LA is the employer, it often produces model policies that outline the organisation's overall commitment, while leaving scope for site-specific arrangements to be produced by individual establishments.

Duties to consult on health and safety matters

Recognised trade unions such as ATL have the right to:

  • appoint safety representatives

  • require employers to establish safety committees.

Employers are also required to consult with all employees on health and safety matters, including those who are not members of a trade union. This is especially important as the employee is often best placed to advise on control measures that are needed.

The employer must consult and work in cooperation with trade union groups and employees when developing health and safety arrangements. Consultation must take place on:

  • changes which may substantially affect employees' health and safety at work (eg changes in procedures, equipment or new technologies)

  • employer's arrangements for appointing competent people to assist in complying with the law

  • information that employees are given on the likely risks and dangers from their work, and the control measures needed

  • planning of health and safety training.

For more see our section on health and safety representatives.

Health and safety poster

A statutory health and safety poster must be displayed in all workplaces. This summarises employers' and employees' legal duties and confirms the necessity of risk assessments. The contact details of staff responsible for health and safety assistance at the workplace, the trade union representative and the relevant enforcing authority must also be listed.

Need further advice?

Your first point of contact is your ATL rep in your school or college. Your local ATL branch is also available to help with queries, or you can contact ATL's member advisors on tel: 020 7930 6441 or email us. Please have your membership number to hand when telephoning and include it with any correspondence - this will help us to answer your query more quickly.

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