Workplace Health Safety and Welfare Regulations. 22 points to know.
The workplace regulations were introduced in 1992 to set a minimum standard for health and safety in the workplace. They were amended in 2002 and again in 2013, and there are approximately 22 points that an employer should be familiar with.
Their purpose was to make the workplace a more healthy, safe and comfortable place for people to work in, including safe access and egress to the premises, grounds and outlying buildings.
For clarity, a workplace can be defined as any non-domestic premises which people at work have access to.
This can include any room, corridor, storage area, communal lobby, staircase etc; including any access or exit to or from the area. (There are other regulations that cover mines, quarries, construction sites and ships in ports.)
Employers have a duty to ensure that workplaces under their control comply with the regulations.
A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE WORKING ENVIRONMENT REGULATIONS.
Updated for 2021
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In enclosed areas ventilation must be effective, and any plant used within these areas must have a suitable warning device to indicate a break down or defect which might endanger health.
During working hours, a reasonable temperature must be maintained without the need for special clothing.
(A minimum of 16-degrees C is recommended, with a minimum recommendation of 13-degrees C where strenuous work is taking place.)
Guidance is available for areas of extreme temperatures such as cold stores and food processing plants.
So far as is reasonable practical, lighting should be natural, but where this is insufficient or not possible then adequate lighting should be supplied with a good uniform spread and minimal dark areas.
Where people are exposed to danger if the artificial light fails, emergency lighting should be supplied. This can be in any room that is reliant on artificial light and especially escape corridors and stairs.
Light themselves should not cause a hazard from glare and dazzle, should not be obscured by shelving or alterations etc, and should be subject to a program of regular maintenance.
FURNITURE and FITTINGS.
Furniture and fittings should be suitable for easy cleaning and kept clean. Surfaces inside the building should be of a construction that is easy to wipe down. Furniture should be of a type that can be kept clean with regular vacuuming or use of proprietary sprays and cloths.
FLOORS and WALLS.
Floors should be of a non-slip type or have a non-slip covering free from rips, damage or trip hazards. They should be cleaned regularly so as not to build up debris or a greasy surface.
Walls should not increase the risk of fire. Consideration should be given to any wall covering that may be flammable and consideration should be given to not placing flammable items on the wall in escape corridors.
Waste should be placed or stored in a suitable receptacle and not left to overflow. Provision should be available to regularly empty waste bins, with a different receptacle for offensive waste.
Room dimensions shall be adequate to offer personal work space and free movement around equipment, other workers and furniture.
As a minimum it is recommended that 11m/3 is allowed per person excluding anything with a ceiling height above 3m and furniture etc.
Workstations need to be suitable for any person in the workplace who is likely to work at the station.
Outside workstations should be so far as is reasonably practicable protected from adverse weather, offer adequate means of escape in an emergency, and ensure that no persons are likely to suffer slips, trips and falls.
Seating shall be provided where work can and must be done, and shall be suitable for the person. Where required, a footrest must also be provided.
The workplace, including equipment shall be subject to regular maintenance and cleaning to ensure that it is in efficient working order, an efficient state and good repair.
Where required, it should be subject to a program of regular maintenance rather than breakdown or reactive maintenance.
Systems would include emergency lighting, ventilation, gas and fossil fuel fired systems, window cleaning devices, moving walkways or moving walkways etc.
FLOORS and TRAFFIC ROUTES
Floors and surfaces for traffic should be suitably designed for their intended purpose. They should not be slippery or uneven and be free of holes and slopes (unless fenced).
Loading bays should have a means of escape or a refuge to prevent crushing from an entering vehicle.
Traffic routes should be of sufficient height and width to allow people and vehicles to move freely around each other, and be free of obstructions.
Separation between people and vehicles should be provided at doorways, gates, crossings and common routes.
Where pedestrians have to cross traffic routes, additional precautions should be put into place.
Open sides of staircases should be protected by a minimum of a rail at least 900mm high, with a lower rail to prevent slipping under.
TANKS and PITS.
Where there is a risk of falling into a tank or pit, measures must be taken to provide a secure barrier or cover over the structure.
GLAZING and WINDOWS
Windows, partitions and glazed doors must be marked and protected against breakage or injury from broken glass.
Windows must open and close safely (including skylights), be free from the risk of falling from the window, and be able to be cleaned safely.
Doors and gates should be of sound construction and kept in good working order. Where automated, they should be fitted with appropriate safety devices and be subject to regular testing and maintenance.
FALLS and FALLING OBJECTS.
See the Work at Height Regulations 2005
LADDERS and ROOFS
See the Work at Height Regulations 2005
SANITARY AND WASHING FACILITIES.
Men and Women should have separate facilities unless the facility is in a separate fully enclosed cubicle with a lockable door designed for one person only.
The facilities must be adequate for the number of employees, in suitable and accessible places, be kept clean, adequately ventilated and lit.
People should not have to queue for long periods of time to use the toilets.
There must be adequate amounts of toilet paper available, and for women, a suitable facility for disposing of sanitary dressings.
Washing facilities must have clean hot and cold running water, soap and paper towels (or another method of hand drying).
Basins should be large enough to wash hands and forearms if necessary.
Showers where necessary. Eg for dirty or arduous work.
The needs of those with disabilities should also be taken into account.
STAFF WORKING IN REMOTE OR ON TEMPORARY WORKSITES.
‘So far as is reasonably practicable’, employers need to provide flushing toilets and running water.
Portable cabins converted into toilet facilities are available from hire companies and are an ideal way to meet this requirement.
Where there is no running water, the alternative would be to provide chemical toilets and water containers.
Relying on the use of public toilets, or shop facilities is not an acceptable form of provision, unless working in a shopping centre for example and permission has been granted by the centre management to use the shared facilities.
There should be a supply of potable (fresh) drinking water from a clean tap with suitable cups, a drinking fountain, or water jet.
Water can be supplied in refillable containers but only as a secondary supply or where a natural water source cannot be supplied.
Water should be easily accessible by all staff. it does not have to be marked or identified as potable water unless there is a risk of people drinking non-potable water.
STORAGE OF CLOTHING AND FACILITIES FOR CHANGING.
Where required, adequate storage for clothing or special items of work wear should be available.
Try to prevent employees’ own clothing coming into contact with soiled clothing, or getting dirty or wet.
Provide a well ventilated facility that allows wet clothing to be hung up and dry naturally throughout the course of the day.
Where a changing room is provided it should:
- Be readily accessible.
- Contain, or lead, directly to clothing storage and washing facilities.
- Provide seating.
- A means for hanging clothes.
- Ensure the privacy of users.
REST & MEALTIME FACILITIES.
Readily available, clean, warm rest and eating facilities should be provided. This should include suitable eating arrangements, suitable seating with back support and tables.
A provision to heat food and drinks unless hot food is provided.
Canteens and restaurants can be used as rest facilities as long as there is no obligation to purchase food.
FACILITIES FOR PREGNANT WOMEN & NURSING MOTHERS.
If ‘reasonably practicable’ to do so, an employer may need to provide a room for pregnant/nursing mothers to rest or lie down, with access to nearby sanitary facilities.
Smoking is prohibited inside all UK workplaces, but a suitable provision must be set up outdoors for smoke breaks with weather protection, a way of collecting discarded smoking material, away from the building, entrances or open windows. So as not to cause a fire hazard.
An employer must ensure there is an effective system in place to ensure the facilities are kept clean and in good condition, with a continual and adequate supply of soap, toilet paper, hand towels etc.
We all have a role to play in effective health and safety, and for those actively involved in promoting safe working practices it can be a rewarding, interesting and varied role.
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Due to the ever-changing nature of regulations and the law, please visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/ for the very latest information and updates.
The relevant HSE document can be accessed HERE.