If you work for yourself, the words ‘health and safety’ may have never crossed your mind. Since October 2015, the UK Government announced that normal health and safety workplace laws would no longer apply to self-employed workers.
This change meant that self-employed people would no longer have to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 or The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. This means that these workers would no longer have to produce and update risk assessments and other documentation. They would also be exempt from putting safety measures in place such as safety signage, first aid kits and keeping accident books. For many self-employed people, these were entirely unnecessary measures that could cost their businesses a lot to implement.
Does your work pose any potential risk to other people?
While the law may have changed with regards to self-employed people and health and safety, certain types of work may still be dangerous if no safety steps are taken.
If your business activities pose no risk whatsoever to members of the public or any other person, you may continue without any heed to workplace health and safety law. However, if any of the following apply to you, current H&S laws may still apply:
- You work within the construction industry
- You are a gas engineer or an electrician
- You expand the business and hire your first employee
- You work with asbestos
- You work in the agriculture industry
There are certain industries which are deemed ‘high risk’, making it very important for safety rules to be followed. There are also situations in which it may not be very clear whether health and safety laws apply to you. For example:
- If you are a hairdresser who normally only does haircuts and blow dries. If you start to offer hair colouring services using bleach or other potentially harmful chemicals, you may need to start adhering to certain health and safety regulations.
- If you invite a freelancer to work with you in your home office on a particular project and they become injured (i.e. a trip or fall) because of something dangerous in your home – you could be liable for their injuries.
- If you are a sculptor or maker and you work with potentially flammable materials, and your studio is in a property shared with other people, you could be putting them at risk.
Seeking expert advice
If you are ever unclear on health and safety law and whether it applies to you, it is always a good idea to consult an expert. FSB health and safety advice, for example, is available for both businesses and the self-employed. It is offered by industry experts who are up to date on the latest changes within the industry and within government regulations, so you can be sure of the very best advice.
It is your responsibility to find out the information you need, as ignorance is rarely accepted as an excuse if someone gets hurt.