Health and safety for employers

Your business has legal responsibilities to provide safe and healthy conditions for your employees, customers, suppliers, and anyone else who could be affected by your activities.


5 min read

1. Overview

As an employer, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations require you to protect your employees and the public from harm.

The minimum steps you must take are:

  • identify anything that could cause injury or illness in your business
  • decide the level of risk that it causes, in terms of likelihood of it happening and severity of impact
  • eliminate this risk where ever possible or, at the very least, control the risk.

Your business can also benefit from good health and safety at work. Effective health and safety practices pay for themselves, because they help you avoid staff illness, accidents and the costs associated with them. They can also improve your reputation with customers, regulators and employees.

This guide offers an introduction to the essentials of health and safety for your business.

2. Appoint a competent person

In general, health and safety laws apply to all businesses, no matter how small. As an employer, or a self-employed person, you are responsible for health and safety in your business. You need to take the right precautions to reduce the risks of workplace dangers and provide a safe working environment.

As an employer, you must appoint someone competent to help you meet your health and safety duties. A competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety. You could appoint:

  • yourself
  • one or more of your workers
  • someone from outside your business

The Health and Safety Executive provides guidance on appointing a competent person.

3. Write a health and safety policy

Describing how you will manage health and safety in your business will let your staff and others know about your commitment to health and safety. This will be your health and safety policy. It should clearly say who does what, when and how.

If you have five or more employees, you must have a written policy.

Most businesses set out their policy in three parts:

  • the statement of general policy section sets out your commitment to managing health and safety effectively, and what you want to achieve
  • the responsibility section allows you to state who is responsible for what
  • the arrangements section contains the detail of what you are going to do in practice to achieve the aims set out in your statement of general policy

If you are unsure how to structure your policy, the Healthy Working Lives website has some information on writing a health and safety policy.

4. Manage the risks in your business

You should use a risk assessment as the main health and safety tool to identify workplace hazards. It will also allow you to put measures in place to control and minimise the hazards and risks you find.

Key aspects of your risk assessment include:

  • identifying potential hazards in the workplace
  • identifying who might be harmed by each hazard and how
  • evaluating the risks identified and deciding on precautions
  • documenting your findings and implementing them

You should regularly review your risk assessment to make sure it still meets all requirements and complies with health and safety legislation.

Healthy Working Lives provides a range of advice and tools to help you manage risk in your business.

5. Consult, train and inform your employees

You have certain legal obligations to consult with your employees or their representatives on health and safety issues.

It is also good practice to find out what your employees and their representatives think about any changes that might affect their health and safety and the quality of your health and safety information and training.

Healthy Working Lives provides guidance about how and when to consult your employees about health and safety issues.

Provide training and information

Everyone who works for you needs to know how to work safely and without risks to health. You must provide clear instructions, information and adequate training for your employees, including information on:

  • hazards and risks in the workplace
  • measures in place to deal with those hazards and risks
  • how to follow any emergency procedures

You also have an obligation to provide this information for any contractors or self-employed people who may be working for you.

Display the health and safety law poster

If you employ anyone, you must display the health and safety law poster, or provide each worker with a copy of the equivalent pocket card. You must display the poster where your workers can easily read it.

The poster outlines British health and safety laws and includes a straightforward list that tells workers what they and their employers need to do. You can also add details of any employee safety representatives or health and safety contacts if you wish to do so.

6. Provide the right workplace facilities

As an employer, you must protect the safety and health of everyone in your workplace, and provide welfare facilities for your employees.

Facilities include:

  • toilets and hand basins, with soap and towels or a hand-dryer
  • drinking water
  • a place to store clothing (and somewhere to change if special clothing is worn for work)

You will also need to consider the working environment. You must make sure there is:

  • good ventilation - a supply of fresh, clean air drawn from outside or a ventilation system
  • a reasonable working temperature (usually at least 16°C, or 13°C for strenuous work (unless other laws require lower temperatures)
  • lighting suitable for the work being carried out
  • enough room space and suitable workstations and seating
  • a clean workplace with appropriate waste containers

Healthy Working lives provides guidance on how to ensure welfare at work.

7. First aid, accidents and ill health

You must have first aid arrangements in your workplace, as you are responsible for making sure that your employees receive immediate attention if they are taken ill or are injured at work.

Under health and safety law, you must also report and keep a record of certain injuries, incidents and cases of work-related disease.

First aid

Your arrangements will depend on the particular circumstances in your workplace and you need to assess what your first-aid needs are.

As a minimum, you must have:

  • a suitably stocked first-aid box
  • an appointed person to take charge of first-aid arrangements
  • information for all employees giving details of first-aid arrangements

Healthy Working Lives provides detailed guidance about first aid provision in the workplace.

Accidents and ill health

Under health and safety law, you must report and keep a record of certain injuries, incidents and cases of work-related disease. Keeping records will help you to identify patterns of accidents and injuries, and will help when completing your risk assessment.


  • Make sure you protect people's personal details by storing records confidentially in a secure place.
  • If you have more than 10 employees, or own or occupy a mine, quarry or factory, you must keep an accident book under social security law.
  • You can buy an accident book on the HSE website - Opens in a new window or record the details in your own record system.

You may need to report workplace incidents to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - you can find out which incidents must be reported and how to report them on the HSE website.

Read our guide Occupational health and welfare - the basics.

8. Fire safety

Any workplace must have a Duty Holder who is responsible for complying with the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the associated Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006. Employees also have a duty to support employers to ensure fire safety. Legislation is enforced by the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service and they may inspect your premises.

Key requirements include:

  • carrying out a risk assessment to identify common fire hazards such as waste materials, appliances and combustible materials
  • implementing fire safety precautions such as alarms, escape routes and extinguishers
  • delivering fire safety training to all employees appropriate to the environment, including evacuation procedures, understanding signage, using extinguishers

9. Further information

Read more about the basics of occupational health and ensuring the safety of employees when using equipment.

Healthy Working Lives provides more support and workplace guidance for employers in Scotland.

If you have further questions about employee safety regulations, call us on 0300 013 4753.

Get the support you need right now

You can connect with us through the contact form, call us or contact your local Business Gateway office.

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