Safety responsibilities

13 October 2005
Safety responsibilities

The Problem
In the hospitality industry various people enter your premises on a daily basis. There are employees, contractors and guests. In the event of something going wrong and someone being injured, who will ultimately be investigated and prosecuted for any health and safety failures that come to light?

The Law The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires an employer to conduct the business, so far as reasonably practicable, in a way that ensures the health, safety and welfare of employees, contractors and other third parties who may be affected by that conduct. The local authority or the Health & Safety Executive are the regulators responsible for enforcing the law and are afforded certain powers under the act to do this.

Expert Advice In the event of an accident or any health and safety violations becoming apparent after a routine inspection, it is often confusing to determine who is responsible. The question of paramount importance is: "Did the accident occur or was the breach of health and safety legislation in your undertaking?" Whether something is part of a company's undertaking is not determined by the location of the activity or by who is fulfilling the particular function but by considering if the activity is relevant to the carrying on of your business. It is fair to say that it is a question of common sense and will be determined by the facts of each case.

Functions carried out by contractors, therefore, remain part of the undertaking of your business, and the contractor's actions will directly impact on the health and safety liability of your business. The people involved in your business and the risk to which each person is exposed needs to be considered in a suitable and sufficient risk assessment. You may find yourself liable under circumstances where you had the best intentions to avoid it. In such an event it is paramount that crisis management procedures are in place to deal with the situation in an effective manner.

An effective crisis management system will, as a bare minimum, include details of who in your organisation should be notified of an incident; who is authorised to represent the organisation; and an immediate action sheet. It would also be valuable to have a protocol for the internal investigation of matters, which should state who is authorised to sign off reports and create communications. It is critical in serious incidents that reports are prepared in draft for your legal advisers. Any reports that are required for the regulator should avoid any assumptions and stick to the facts.

What must be borne in mind is that the prime purpose of a regulator's involvement is, first, to prevent a recurrence and, second, to gather evidence. The critical action is to ensure that in helping the regulator you do not inadvertently harm your defence.

Check List

  • Carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of your business.
  • When contractors are appointed, ensure that they are competent to perform the task they are engaged for.
  • Require all contractors to present a method statement and risk assessment of the task assigned to them before any work commences.
  • Ensure that your employees or patrons are not unnecessarily exposed to any risk posed by work done by contractors.
  • Implement and communicate a crisis management system.
  • Predetermine who is entitled to make comments on behalf of the company to the Health & Safety inspector.

Beware! A failure to comply with health and safety legislation may result in substantial fines to the company - as the recent case involving Transco, where a 15m fine was imposed, demonstrates; an adverse impact on the brand name; and the risk of imprisonment to key individuals. Liability may be avoided, or the fallout limited, by properly managing the situation.


Lukas Rootman Nabarro Nathanson 1 South Quay, Victoria Quays, Wharf Street, Sheffield S2 5SY 0114 279 4022
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