Changes to Health & Safety Law for self-employed people

Mark Owen – Health & Safety Expert

September 03 2015

From 1 October 2015, in Great Britain, health and safety law will not apply to self-employed people where their work activity poses no potential risk to the health and safety of other workers or members of the public. An estimated 1.7 million self-employed people working in jobs such as novelists, journalists, graphic designers, accountants, confectioners, financial advisors and online traders will be exempt from health and safety at work duties. The change is coming following the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (General Duties of Self-Employed Persons) (Prescribed Undertakings) Regulations 2015. These exempt self-employed people whose work activity poses no risk to anyone else from the application of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. However, the regulations specify that duties, imposed by the Act, will continue to apply to self-employed people working in agriculture, construction, railways and genetic manipulation or with gas and asbestos. The Act will also continue to apply to any self-employed person who is also an employer. The new regulations do not define activities that will not pose a risk to others. However, the Health and Safety Executive suggest that the approach is to consider whether a self-employed person’s work creates, even if only for a small part of the overall work activity, risks to others. If a self-employed person could justifiably answer no to questions such as;
  • Could other people be harmed by your work activities?
  • Do you work where other people have access and could you harm their health or safety?
  • Could someone be burnt, scalded, crushed, trip over or fall because of the equipment, materials or substances that you use?
  • Does your work activity create noise, dust, fumes?
  • Do you use any materials or substances that could injure someone if they came into contact with them?
They would be exempt, however, if any answer is yes the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 law will continue to apply. The new regulations are supposed to simplify the law and reduce burdens on business. It may achieve that for the self-employed people it affects but it won’t make it simpler for anyone who is an employer. They will still need to consider the health and safety of self-employed people when they come onto their premises whatever the work they will be doing. Additionally, where the self-employed person could create risks to their employees they will need to make sure that those risks are abated. They may well have to deal with a self-employed person who believes that they have no longer have any health and safety responsibilities. The employer will always have the upper hand because they don’t have to use that person if they refuse to co-operate. As a BusinessSafe client you don’t need to puzzle over the detail of these changes. Our Business Safety Consultants can and will advise when they visit; and should you have, at any time, concerns about these new regulations and their application or any other health and safety issues on which you need advice just call our 24 hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2785. One of our BusinessSafe Consultants will be on hand to offer you timely help and support.

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