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NEBOSH in occupational health and safety full

RRC Business Training

International General Certificate
in Occupational Safety and Health

Health and Safety Solutions

27-37 St George’s Road, London SW19 4DS
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who initially trained as a research chemist and spent 7 years with Courtaulds, first as an R&D
scientist and then as a Safety Manager. During this time, he gained his NEBOSH Diploma, studying
through RRC and later joined the EHS department of an electronic chemicals manufacturer as
product regulatory officer. He has been a regular NEBOSH Diploma examiner.

RRC Module No. 915.1.3


NEBOSH | International General Certificate

Element Title

Health and Safety Foundations


Setting Policy for Health and Safety


Organising for Health and Safety




Promoting a Positive Health and Safety Culture


Health and Safety Risk Assessment


Principles of Control in Health and Safety



Movement of People and Vehicles – Hazards and Control


Manual and Mechanical Handling Hazards and Control


Work Equipment Hazards and Control


Electrical Hazards and Control



Fire Hazards and Control


Chemical and Biological Health Hazards and Control


Physical and Psychological Health Hazards and Control



Construction Activities - Hazards and Control


Investigation, Recording and Reporting of Health and Safety


Monitoring, Review and Audit of Health and Safety

Examination and Assessment Preparation


Element 1 | Health and Safety Foundations

NEBOSH International General Certificate
Element 1 | Health and Safety Foundations


THE MULTI-DISCIPLINARY NATURE OF HEALTH AND SAFETY __________________________________________________ 1–3
OBSTACLES TO GOOD STANDARDS OF HEALTH AND SAFETY _________________________________________________ 1–4

HEALTH, SAFETY, WELFARE AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION ______________________________________________ 1–7
ACCIDENTS AND OTHER EVENTS ___________________________________________________________________ 1–7
HAZARDS AND RISKS __________________________________________________________________________ 1–9

SIZE OF THE PROBLEM ________________________________________________________________________ 1–11
DIRECT AND INDIRECT COSTS OF ACCIDENTS AND ILL-HEALTH _______________________________________________ 1–12
AND COMPETENT WORKERS ____________________________________________________________________ 1–14

THE EMPLOYER’S BASIC RESPONSIBILITIES __________________________________________________________ 1–16
WORKER’S RESPONSIBILITIES AND RIGHTS___________________________________________________________ 1–17
THE CONSEQUENCES OF NON-COMPLIANCE __________________________________________________________ 1–18
ROLE OF ENFORCING AUTHORITIES AND OTHER EXTERNAL AGENCIES __________________________________________ 1–18
THE ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS AND CONVENTIONS ______________________________________________ 1–19

EXTERNAL ________________________________________________________________________________ 1–21
INTERNAL ________________________________________________________________________________ 1–21


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NEBOSH International General Certificate

Health and Safety Foundations | Element 1

Most people would agree that poor working conditions of any type have the potential to affect a
worker’s health and safety. It would also be agreed that our aim should be to eliminate or at
least minimise the risk of accident or injury; and to protect workers from the effects of ill-health
caused by their working conditions. However, those aims are not that simple to achieve in
Take almost any country in the world and people are still killed either at work or as a result of
work activities; many more have non-fatal injuries at work or suffer from work-related ill-health.
The cost of workplace accidents or diseases is very high. There is both a direct cost to the
employer in lost working time, medical costs, repair or replacement of equipment, etc., and also
a much higher indirect cost which affects the injured or sick workers and their families.
This element sets out a framework of health and safety by looking at the practical, moral and
financial issues surrounding the goal of a safe workplace environment, and the legal and
organisational framework which seeks to ensure that goal. In doing so, the element is designed
to meet the following aims and learning outcomes as specified by NEBOSH for this part of the
syllabus for the International Certificate.

Overall Aims
On completion of this element, you should understand:

The scope and nature of occupational health and safety.

The moral, legal and economic reasons for promoting good standards of health and safety
within an organisation.

The role of national governments and international bodies in formulating a framework for
the regulation of health and safety.

The basis of a system for managing health and safety.

The costs of failing to manage health and safety.

Specific Intended Learning Outcomes
When you have worked through this element, you will be able to:

Explain briefly the moral/social, legal and economic bases for maintaining good standards
of health and safety.

Outline the roles and responsibilities of employers and workers.

Identify sources of information on health and safety.

Outline the key elements of a health and safety management system.

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Element 1 | Health and Safety Foundations

Health and safety at work is based on an understanding of the causes of accidents and other
events at the workplace which lead to harm to workers and others who may be close by. In
general terms, though, this is perhaps not as easy as may at first be thought.

The Multi-Disciplinary Nature of Health and Safety
The roots of a systematic approach to health and safety lie in the development of large-scale
manufacturing operations. In the past, factory machinery was operated with little or no regard to
the safety of workers and it was far from uncommon for factory staff (including young children) to
suffer bodily injury from unguarded machines. Reacting to these effects, the causes were
addressed by concerned factory owners and politicians, allied to increasing pressure from
workers themselves, by putting in protective measures (such as machine guards) and developing
safer working practices.
As scientific knowledge has grown and political and social concern over workplace health and
safety has broadened, the effects of work have been studied extensively. The range of issues
identified, which started with those clearly identifiable physical injuries such as losing fingers or
arms, has widened to include less apparent injuries (such as deteriorating eyesight and bad
backs) and illnesses (both physical and psychological), which very often build up over time,
rather than being caused by a single incident. The causes of these problems themselves are
often not easily identifiable.
Occupational health and safety today, then, has moved a long way from its engineering roots
and brings together a wide range of subject specialities to investigate what the ill-effects of work
are and what causes them. It draws on the study of both the physical world – chemistry,
physics, biology, etc. – and the social world, of how and why people behave as they do. As a
health and safety practitioner, you would not expect to be familiar with the detail of all these
subjects, but should be aware of the range of different disciplines which contribute to
knowledge and understanding of health and safety issues. These include:

Chemistry and physics, which explain the properties of different substances and the ways
in which they behave in different circumstances – for example, electricity, explosive or
flammable materials, acid, etc.

Biological sciences (including toxicology, hygiene and medicine), which explain the
composition and processes of living organisms – for example, the effects of harmful
organisms on people, the responses and reactions of the human body when under physical
stress, etc.

Engineering, which is responsible for the construction of buildings and mechanical
processes – for example, the safe design of machinery and vehicles, fireproofing buildings,

Psychology, which attempts to explain the behaviour of the individual – for example, the
effects of stress on the mind, the motivation behind the behaviour of individuals and
groups at the workplace, etc.

Sociology, which attempts to explain the behaviour of people in groups – for example,
management processes, patterns of work, communication in organisations, etc.

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NEBOSH International General Certificate

Health and Safety Foundations | Element 1

The law, which contains the rules and regulations of society – for example, the mass of law
which deals with workplace activities.

Obstacles to Good Standards of Health and Safety
As we have noted, health and safety is based on removing, or minimising, the causes of
accidents and other events in the workplace which may have adverse effects on workers. It
should be clear now that this cause-and-effect relationship is not always easily identifiable and,
as the processes and activities in the workplace continue to develop, that the complexity of the
problem is a continuing obstacle to good standards of health and safety. However, other
obstacles arise from the nature of the workplace itself – the characteristics both of the
organisation within which work is carried out (including private commercial businesses and
public sector bodies) and of the people who carry out the work.

Complexity of the Problem
We can see three ways in which the issue of health and safety in the workplace is far from

Whilst this is self-evident in respect of certain events – for example, dropping a stillburning cigarette into a wastepaper basket can cause a fire – there are many ill-effects
suffered by people at work for which there is no readily identifiable cause or, where there is
an identifiable cause, its relationship with the effect does not seem to be straightforward.
For example, in some offices, workers have suffered from a variety of symptoms such as
headaches, or eye, skin, nose and throat irritations, etc. where there is no one apparent
cause. Rather the problem is attributed to “sick building syndrome” – a general term which
may cover a whole variety of causes, including the lighting, air-conditioning, presence of
static electricity, etc. Another example is that of work-related upper limb disorders (WRULD
for short, or, as it was often known in the past, repetitive strain injury or RSI), which affect
some workers using computer keyboards but not others.
In general, these issues may be resolved by increasing our scientific understanding of the
nature of the injury or harm, and the ways in which the working environment acts to cause
them. Thus, the incidence of lung disorders among certain workers was only attributed to
the workplace when the link between asbestos exposure and such health problems was
established, and since then there have been ever stricter controls over the use of the

In many western countries, the last 30 years has seen a revolution in the way in which work
is carried out and the type of work which is undertaken. In the main, this has been fuelled
by technological change – primarily, the computerisation of manufacturing and information
processing – and the drive for increased efficiency and productivity to keep costs down in
the face of increasing competition.
The effects include an increase in the range and complexity of activities, the speeding up of
operations and changes to the traditional patterns of organisation and management. Thus,
the increasing complexity of the modern workplace has perhaps increased the range of
hazards and risks.

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Element 1 | Health and Safety Foundations

It may be argued that as the hazards and risks to health have become better understood,
the range of issues which have to be addressed have themselves made health and safety
more complex. Reflecting this, the legislation and official guidance covering workplaces
have steadily increased in both number and complexity over the years. Those responsible
for health and safety have an ever increasing task of keeping abreast of new developments
and requirements, and of implementing appropriate responses to them through policies
and practices, in an already complex working environment.

Competing and Conflicting Demands
Organisations exist to produce the goods and services demanded of them by their customers
and clients. If they do not do this and do it profitably, they will go out of business or, in the case
of public sector organisations, there will be political and/or management changes to ensure that
they do. Therefore, the primary objective of management in a competitive and cost-conscious
environment will be to achieve those goals.
Under this way of looking at organisations, health and safety represents a cost, which might be
regarded as a non-productive cost in that it does not directly contribute to the efficient provision
of goods and services. As a result, in many organisations, health and safety is not a priority of
management. Instead, it may be seen as conflicting with the need to increase production, to
pursue higher sales figures or to cut costs. In the situation where an employer takes little
responsibility for the protection of his workers’ health and safety, the result will be that serious
workplace accidents, injuries or diseases are commonplace.

Behavioural Issues
The first thing we should note is that for occupational health and safety practice to work
successfully, there has to be the collaboration and participation of both the employers and the
workers in health and safety matters.
To some extent, the management measures taken to implement good health and safety
standards at work can be integrated into the working processes themselves. Thus, guards may
be placed on machines, circuit breakers incorporated into electrical appliances, or automatic fire
detection devices fitted which immediately set off alarms when they sense the presence of
smoke. However, most measures rely, to a greater or lesser degree, on the actions of workers to
make them effective.
Unfortunately, this is a major source of weakness. It has been estimated that 60% of workplace
accidents are caused by human action (or lack of action), with the main reasons for this being
ignorance, carelessness or incompetence.
The extent to which workers, individually or collectively, are conscious of the hazards and risks
at the workplace and are motivated to maintain the necessary standards to ensure safe working
practices can vary enormously. There are a number of factors which can influence this:

Conflicts between individual or group goals and the requirements of health and safety – for
example, the pursuit of higher levels of output to attract bonus payments, working
excessive numbers of hours, or simply patterns of social interaction which may cause
distraction or loss of attention.

Individual characteristics and suitability for the job – including physical or mental
characteristics, knowledge and skills, temperament, personality, etc.

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Health and Safety Foundations | Element 1

The satisfaction of needs through achievements at work – the extent to which the
characteristics of the job and the workplace meet the needs of individuals and provide a
motivation to perform effectively.

All of these factors can – and should – be addressed directly by management in the interests of
developing and maintaining a safe working environment.

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Element 1 | Health and Safety Foundations

The subject of health and safety is, like all subjects, full of its own language and terminology –
we have already started to use some, such as hazards and risks. It is important to be clear about
a number of the basic concepts of the subject and here we shall define and explain certain
underlying principles.

Health, Safety, Welfare and Environmental Protection
Health and safety at work is a general term to cover a wide range of effects which may be created
by activities and events which occur at the workplace. Exactly what is covered?

Health relates to the physical condition of both body and mind, of all people at the
workplace (workers, contractors and visitors) and their protection from harm in the form of
injury or disease.

Safety relates to the conditions at the workplace and applies to the pursuit of a state where
the risk of harm has been eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level.

Welfare relates to the general well-being of workers at the workplace and the promotion of
conditions which help to provide for their needs in respect of health, comfort, social and
personal well-being. This broader concept of welfare is not a specific concern of health and
safety at work, but effective health and safety measures may contribute to the conditions
which promote it.

Environmental protection can be seen as comprising two types:

The workplace environment, which relates to the general conditions in the immediate
area of the workplace itself – for example, levels of lighting, noise, heat, etc.

The external environment, which relates to pollution of, or damage to, the air, land,
water and living creatures outside of the workplace, insofar as they may be affected by
workplace activities.

The second type is not generally considered to be part of health and safety at work, since
its focus is not on the protection of people at the workplace. However, some of the issues
with which it is concerned are shared with those of health and safety and there is a degree
of common practice and methods between them.

Accidents and Other Events
It is useful to define several types of event commonly considered in relation to health and safety.
An event that gave rise to an accident or had the potential to lead to an accident (the
term incident includes accidents and near misses (see below)).
This is widely agreed to mean an undesired event, giving rise to death, ill-health,
injury, damage or other loss e.g. a worker is injured when he puts his hand into a machine from
which a guard has been removed.
– These are any form of event which could have resulted in injury or loss but did not
in fact do so. Consider the following example: The worker realises that a machine guard is
missing and pulls out his hand, just getting a smear of oil on his fingers.

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Health and Safety Foundations | Element 1

These may be the same events with the same causes as the accidents illustrated before, but with
a different outcome. They are significant in that lessons should be learned from them in order to
prevent them re-occurring and, perhaps, causing harm the next time.
In many regions throughout the world, certain types of events are reportable to the enforcing
authority. By enforcing authority we mean the executive branch of the government charged with
enforcing health and safety legislation and standards. These organisations are also commonly
referred to as competent authorities. In terms of reporting, the following four definitions are
: an occurrence arising out of, or in the course of, work, which results in
fatal or non-fatal injury.
: an accident resulting in death or personal injury occurring on the direct
way between the place of work and:
(i) the worker's principal or secondary residence; or
(ii) the place where the worker usually takes a meal; or
(iii) the place where the worker usually receives his or her remuneration.
: a readily identifiable event as defined under national laws and
regulations, with potential to cause an injury or disease to persons at work or to the public.
These events typically involve serious potential for injury, even though no injury in fact resulted
– though they usually involve some form of loss or damage to equipment. Examples of this type
might include explosions when a factory is empty of workers or collapse of scaffolding during a
night time gale.
: any disease contracted as a result of an exposure to risk factors arising
from work activity e.g. occupational cancer arising from exposure to asbestos in the workplace.

Work-Related Ill-Health
It is easy to equate personal injury with accidents, but work-related ill-health may also be the
outcome of a type of accident. Nobody sets out deliberately to create the conditions which
cause asbestosis, dermatitis or work-related upper limb disorder.
The main differences between health issues and safety issues are timescale and the nature of
the harm. Physical accidents happen very quickly, whereas health accidents tend to occur
slowly, often over a long period of time, and equally health issues relate to illness whilst safety
issues relate to injuries.
Work-related ill-health may be either physiological or psychological:

Physiological problems are those diseases or injuries suffered as a result of long-term
exposure to dangerous substances in the workplace (such as various types of dust or
fumes) or to damaging working practices (such as repetitive movements or excessive

Psychological problems are usually related to stress and include such illnesses as
depression. Stress may be created by short-term, or even instant, events, where the
emotional shock of a particular incident or series of incidents (such as being involved in or
witnessing violence) may cause problems for workers. It may also be the result of longerterm exposure to particular pressures at the workplace, including excessive demands on
performance or bullying.

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Element 1 | Health and Safety Foundations

Hazards and Risks

is an article, substance or situation that has the


. Not all hazards will cause harm all of the time. It depends upon
The key word is
circumstances. Typical workplace hazards include:

Working at heights.





Poor lighting.

Manual handling.

Cluttered walkways.


These are just a few examples. In a normal workplace there may be many more hazards.
is the
. The degree of risk depends upon the likelihood of
harm happening and the severity of the outcome i.e. type of injury, numbers involved, etc.
Unfortunately, it is very often impossible to eliminate all hazards to avoid accidents. The next
best thing, then, is to reduce to an acceptable level the risk of any hazard turning into an
accident. For example, a trailing cable in the workplace constitutes a hazard and the associated
risk is the chance of a trip or a fall over the cable, accompanied by a particular degree of injury.
(Electricity is another hazard present in this situation, but for simplicity we will ignore this.)
Ideally, the hazard should be eliminated by having the appliance close to the electrical socket,
or the cable permanently fastened to the wall. However, with some types of equipment, say a
vacuum cleaner, this is not possible. A solution, therefore, would be to reduce the risk by
considering the positioning of the cable and perhaps providing warning signs.
The magnitude of the risk is an estimate of how likely it is that someone will trip over the cable,
with an assessment of the likely severity of injury caused. The same hazard may therefore
present different magnitudes of risk, depending on the arrangements:

cable and

Position of Cable

Magnitude of Risk
(likelihood x severity)

Fastened to wall


Trailing around edge of room


Trailing across the floor


Trailing across head of stairway


The identification of hazards and the assessment of associated risks has become the
cornerstone of modern health and safety law.

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NEBOSH International General Certificate

Health and Safety Foundations | Element 1


Why may health and safety not be seen as a priority by the management of an organisation?



An accident.


A hazard.

(iii) A risk.

What two types of hazard are there?


What factors are assessed in determining the magnitude of a risk?

The suggested answers are given at the end of the element.

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Element 1 | Health and Safety Foundations

The responsibility for health and safety at work rests primarily on the shoulders of the employer.
It must therefore be a prime concern of management to ensure that appropriate measures and
practices are in place to create safe working conditions. This placing of responsibility on
employers comes essentially from the focus given by most health and safety legislation.
However, there are also compelling moral and economic reasons for employers to be concerned
with health and safety:

Employers (through management) provide the premises and equipment and put in place the
working practices which workers use to produce the goods and services with which
employers earn profits (or, in the case of government agency employers, remain in power).
To that extent they can be said to gain from the conditions at the workplace. In return, they
provide an income for workers, but also have a moral responsibility to provide appropriate
working conditions. This forms the basis of the employer’s responsibilities which we
discuss below.

Unsafe working conditions are likely to have an impact on production – through both loss
of output and a lowering of worker morale and motivation – and on sales. Increasingly,
society has expectations of a socially-concerned approach to management and the conduct
of business, and the customer/client base of organisations may be adversely affected by
the negative image surrounding a poor health and safety record.

Apart from the financial cost of loss of output, employers may be liable for fines and/or
payment of damages in respect of accidents at work.

Size of the Problem
The introduction of legislation, together with an extensive programme of publicity and advice on
accident prevention, has brought about a consistent reduction in the number of both fatal and
non-fatal accidents at work. However there continues to be an unacceptably high toll in terms of
death, injury and financial loss associated with incidents at the workplace.
The following global statistics have been published by the International Labour Organisation
(ILO) as part of their SafeWork programme (the actual figures are unimportant – it is simply to
show the scale of the problem):

There are 270 million occupational accidents and 160 million occupational diseases each

Around 2 million people die every year from occupational accidents and occupational

4% of the world’s gross domestic product is lost each year through the cost of injury, death,
absence, etc.

There are around 355,000 on-the-job fatalities each year – half of these occur in agriculture.
Other high-risk sectors are construction and fishing industries.

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Health and Safety Foundations | Element 1

Direct and Indirect Costs of Accidents and Ill-Health
We have seen that the costs of failures in health and safety at work across the economy as a
whole are enormous. For the individual employer, they can also be very significant.
The costs may be divided into two parts:

– These are the measurable costs arising from an accident and/or any claim
for liability under the civil or criminal courts. They include sick pay, repairs or replacement
of damaged equipment and buildings, etc., product loss or damage, loss of production,
public and/or product liability, fines, legal fees, increases in insurance premiums, etc.

– These are costs which may arise as a consequence of the event, but do not
generally involve the payment of money. They are often largely unknown, but it is
estimated that in certain circumstances they may be extremely high. They include business
interruption, loss of orders, cost of time spent on investigations, loss of corporate image.

We can examine these costs by reference to different classes of accident or other health and
safety events.

There are no direct costs associated with this type of event. However, near misses may incur
minor indirect costs in relation to a temporary stoppage of work, with the extent of the losses
depending upon the duration of the stoppage and that in itself depends upon the nature and
severity of the event.

The direct costs of this type of event include:

Value of the materials wasted.

Value of any finished products or work-in-progress lost as a result.

Cost of replacement or repair of plant and equipment.

Loss of production whilst repairs are made or replacements obtained.

Increased overtime costs incurred to make up for loss of production.

In addition, the following indirect costs may be incurred:

Loss of time already spent on the job.

Loss of goodwill from customers following from delays in production and fulfilling orders –
resulting in cancellations and further loss of orders.

Penalty clauses activated for failing to meet delivery dates, resulting in lower profits from

The direct costs of this type of event include:

Costs of medical treatment – first aid, ambulance, out-patient treatment, in-patient
treatment (bed, nursing, doctors, specialists, consultants, medication, etc.).

Compensation payable to victim.

Fines imposed on conviction for breach of criminal law.

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Loss of victims’ own productive capacity and possible knock-on effects to others, causing
overall loss of production before production schedules and work allocations are

Increased overtime costs incurred to make up for loss of production.

In addition, the following indirect costs may be incurred:

Loss of production time due to workers stopping to assist the victim(s) and discussing the

Downtime on machinery due to switching off in order to provide assistance to the victim(s).

Loss of staff from productive duties in order to investigate the incident, prepare reports,
undertake hospital visits, deal with relatives, attend court proceedings.

Cost of training replacement(s).

Difficulties in recruiting suitable replacements, and possible loss of existing staff, if health
and safety record is poor.

Increased overheads if plant and men are idle.

Loss of goodwill from customers following delays in production and fulfilling orders –
resulting in cancellations and further loss of orders.

Activation of penalty clauses for failing to meet delivery dates, resulting in lower profits
from sales.

The costs here are likely to be a combination of those liabilities arising separately for events
involving only damage to plant and equipment and those involving only personal injury.

Insurance, Costs and Liabilities
Employers usually take out insurance to cover themselves against potential losses caused by
such events as fire and theft. In many countries, employers are also required by law to have
insurance against certain types of liability. However, many of the costs involved in respect of
accidents at work are not covered by insurance.
Uninsured costs include all indirect costs as well as those relating to loss of production as a
result of many types of incident. In addition, the insurance to cover loss in respect of certain
events may be void where it may be shown that the employer has not taken adequate
precautions to prevent the incident. It has been estimated that uninsured losses were between
8 and 36 times greater than insured losses.

Fault and No-Fault Compensation Systems
In many countries around the world the principle way that a worker has to claim compensation in
the case of a workplace inquiry is to use the Courts. This “tort” based system is essentially
adversarial and requires that someone else is blamed for causing the inquiry. In most instances
it is the employer who is blamed and therefore found to be at fault. This is the principal
compensation mechanism used in the UK and the USA.
In other countries a no-fault compensation system is in operation. In these countries there is no
requirement to blame employers or employees in order for compensation to be awarded.
Instead a panel of experts make a decision on whether compensation should be awarded. The

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Health and Safety Foundations | Element 1

system is non-adversarial and does not involve lawyers or the courts in most instances. These
no-fault compensation systems are operated in, for example, New Zealand and Sweden.

The Need to Provide a Safe Place of Work, Safe Plant and
Equipment, Safe Systems of Work, Training and Supervision,
and Competent Workers
Safe Place of Work
You will appreciate that should an employer create a place of work, it follows that there should
be some legal requirement on him to ensure that such a place of work is reasonably safe. What
is considered “reasonable” may vary with the type of work. It follows that the employer should
provide safe access to and from the workplace; it is no good the workplace itself being safe and
yet having to climb a high ladder just to get to it!

Safe Plant and Equipment
Not only should an employer provide a safe place of work, but all the machinery, tools, plant,
equipment and appliances which will be used by workers must at all times be kept in a wellmaintained and safe condition. Exactly what this means will depend on the type of work being
carried out. It is safe to assume that the greater the risk involved in the operation of particular
types of plant and equipment, the greater the care that must be taken. Thus, the need to
inspect, service and repair, and replace machinery in a steel-making factory would be far greater
than that which would apply in an office. However, the same duty to maintain the plant and
equipment used in proper condition applies to both and employers must be able to demonstrate
that they have given reasonable thought to the health and safety implications of the machinery,
etc., and taken reasonable steps to ensure its continuing safety, if they wish to escape liability in
the event of an accident.

Safe System of Work
It is not sufficient to stop at the provision of safe premises and plant and equipment. There must
be recognised safe procedures for the use of equipment and these should be rigorously
There are a number of aspects to this which must be considered:

The system of work should be reasonably safe in all circumstances, so the procedures must
cover all foreseeable possibilities – for example, the operation of drilling equipment in
different types of weather, rather than just a set of rules which ensure safety when the
weather is good.

Workers must be fully aware of and competent in carrying out the safe system of work.
Thus, there is an implied requirement that staff are properly trained and instructed in the
procedures, and that all information necessary to ensure that the system is followed is
made available. This may include the display of warning notices, and it may be necessary
for them to be printed in a number of different languages to ensure that all staff and visitors
are aware of what is necessary.

The fact that a system of work has been in operation without incident for a period of time is
not evidence of it being a safe system of work. In recent years, emphasis has been placed
on the need for appropriate review, planning and control in ensuring that working methods
are safe.

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Training and Supervision and Competency of Staff
It is essential to ensure that staff are equipped with the knowledge, experience, skills and
training necessary to carry out their work in a safe manner, without causing harm to themselves
or others, and that they do indeed carry out the work in a safe manner.
This starts with the appointment of workers, where the employer must ensure that the person
has all the necessary abilities to do the job safely i.e. he is competent. It would be courting
disaster, for example, to engage a person who was unable to read and then put him to work on
complicated machinery where there was a requirement to read and understand important
operating instructions.
All staff need also to be provided with the specific knowledge required to operate safely in the
particular workplace, using the particular plant and machinery according to the recognised safe
systems of work. The provision of that knowledge through training, instruction and other forms
of information is a major responsibility of the employer. Training and instruction must be
suitable for the individual worker.
Finally, employers should take reasonable practical steps to ensure that staff are following all
the correct procedures and are actually operating safely. This does not mean that an employer
stands and looks over the shoulder of each individual worker – this would clearly be
unreasonable. However, it does imply that management must take active steps to check the
We have noted that around 60% of workplace accidents are the result of human actions and are
preventable. Clearly there are many instances of workers not following the agreed procedures
and practices. In such situations, who is to blame – the employer, the worker or both?
With judicious use of supervision, an employer can reinforce adherence to procedures. If
supervision is not used at all, it may create a culture in which safe working procedures are

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Health and Safety Foundations | Element 1

As you would expect, the actual detailed legal duties placed on employers and workers does
vary throughout each country in the world. Even so, many will have the same basic intention of
protecting people at work. There is a general recognition that most of the responsibility lies with
the employer – since he provides the work, the workplace, the tools, systems, methods, etc.
Though the terminology can vary throughout the world, it is a common theme that the law has
certain behavioural expectations of both employers and workers. This includes exercising
reasonable care in order to protect others from the risks of foreseeable injury, health problems
or death at work.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is a United Nations (UN) agency. The ILO has been
active in the area of health and safety standards, the principals of which have been widely
adopted. In 1981, the ILO adopted the Occupational Health and Safety Convention (C155). This
sets forth a basic goal-setting policy for health and safety at both the national level and the level
of the individual undertaking.
C155 is complemented by P155 – “the Protocol to the Occupational Health and Safety Convention
1981” which fleshes out some of provisions regarding reporting of occupational accidents etc. to
national authorities.
The Occupational Safety and Health Recommendation 1981 (R164) supplements C155 and
provides more detailed guidance on how to comply with the policies of C155. In particular, it
identifies obligations that might be placed on employers and workers in order to achieve the
basic goal of a safe and healthy place of work. These basic ideas are widely enshrined in
national legislation.

The Employer’s Basic Responsibilities
Article 16 of C155 identifies some basic obligations on employers:

Employers shall be required to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the
workplaces, machinery, equipment and processes under their control are safe and without
risk to health.


Employers shall be required to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the
chemical, physical and biological substances and agents under their control are without
risk to health when the appropriate measures of protection are taken.


Employers shall be required to provide, where necessary, adequate protective clothing and
protective equipment to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, risk of accidents or of
adverse effects on health.

Article 10 of R164 expands on what this might mean in practice. It identifies at least the
following practical obligations to meet the objective of Article 16 of C155:

to provide and maintain workplaces, machinery and equipment, and use work methods,
which are as safe and without risk to health as is reasonably practicable;

(b) to give necessary instructions and training, taking account of the functions and capacities
of different categories of workers;

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Element 1 | Health and Safety Foundations


to provide adequate supervision of work, of work practices and of application and use of
occupational safety and health measures;

(d) to institute organisational arrangements regarding occupational safety and health and the
working environment adapted to the size of the undertaking and the nature of its activities;

to provide, without any cost to the worker, adequate personal protective clothing and
equipment which are reasonably necessary when hazards cannot be otherwise prevented or


to ensure that work organisation, particularly with respect to hours of work and rest breaks,
does not adversely affect occupational safety and health;

(g) to take all reasonably practicable measures with a view to eliminating excessive physical
and mental fatigue;
(h) to undertake studies and research or otherwise keep abreast of the scientific and technical
knowledge necessary to comply with the foregoing clauses.
Thus it is a reasonable expectation that every employer should provide a safe workplace and
generally look after the health and safety of workers. This kind of principle is nearly always
enshrined in law – though the actual extent of the duty may vary. This means that if an employer
is aware of a health and safety risk to workers, or ought to have known of its existence (in the
light of current knowledge at the time), he will be liable if an worker is injured, killed or suffers
illness as a result of the risk and he (the employer) has failed to take reasonable steps to avoid it

Worker’s Responsibilities and Rights
Article 19 of C155 identifies obligations placed on all workers and their representatives to
cooperate with their employer in regard to fulfilling his safety obligations. Workers should:

take reasonable care for their own safety and that of other persons who may be affected by
their acts or omissions at work;

(b) comply with instructions given for their own safety and health and those of others and with
safety and health procedures;

use safety devices and protective equipment correctly and do not render them inoperative;

(d) report forthwith to their immediate supervisor any situation which they have reason to
believe could present a hazard and which they cannot themselves correct;

report any accident or injury to health which arises in the course of or in connection with

Workers have a right to the provision of a safe workplace, as implied by the employer’s
obligations. The following additional rights are identified in Article 19 of C155.

There shall be arrangements at the level of the undertaking under which….

representatives of workers in an undertaking are given adequate information on measures
taken by the employer to secure occupational safety and health and may consult their
representative organisations about such information provided they do not disclose
commercial secrets;

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