We often hear about companies being prosecuted for breaching health and safety legislation, however, individual employees can also be prosecuted for breaching health and safety law.
Employees duties for Health & Safety at work are covered under Section 7 of the Health & Safety at work act. Under Section 7 Employees must:
(a) to take reasonable care for the health and safety of [themselves] and of other persons who may be affected by [their] acts or omissions at work; and
(b) as regards any duty or requirement imposed on [their] employer or any other person by or under any of the relevant statutory provisions, to co-operate with [them] so far as is necessary to enable that duty or requirement to be performed or complied with.
Employee Prosecuted by the HSE
The HSE recently prosecuted an employee for breaching Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 following an accident which occurred on the 30th July 2018.
The employee had used a forklift truck with an attached potato box to lift an apprentice electrician 4 meters high to carry out electrical repairs. Due to the instability of the potato box, the apprentice fell and punctured a lung and fractured his ribs.
The employee pleaded guilty to breaching Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £2000 and ordered to pay £560.40 costs.
In this case, the HSE prosecuted the employee and not the employer because the employer had taken all reasonable steps to ensure compliance. The employer had carried out a risk assessment and had provided suitable equipment for the work but the employee in charge of the work did not use it.
What duties do employees have under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974?
This case is a reminder that it’s not only employers who have a legal duty of care under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 but employees themselves also have a duty of care.
Under Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 employees have a duty to take reasonable care for the health and safety of themselves and others who may be affected by their acts or omissions whilst at work. This extends to co-operating to enable the employer to fulfill its legal duty.
Acts of horseplay and violence against people may also come within the scope of Section 7 if they arise out of or in connection with work and put people’s health and safety at risk.
Circumstances when the HSE might prosecute under Section 7
When considering prosecuting an employee under Section 7, the HSE take into consideration the following points:
- Whether the company had done all it reasonably could to ensure compliance.
- Whether the offence was solely the result of the actions/inactions of the individual.
- Whether employees, as a matter of general practice, followed the systems of work alleged by the employer to be in force.
- Any previous warnings to the employee from whatever source.
- Whether the offence by the employee was flagrant.
- The risks to health and safety arising from the offence by the employee; and
- Whether prosecution would be seen by others as fair, appropriate and warranted.
For more information regarding employees responsibilities for health and safety, please contact our Wirehouse Health and Safety team today.
Download Our Risk Assessment Template
Our 5x5 Risk Assessment template helps you quickly identify any risks via our risk rating calculator