Health and safety for businesses

By law, businesses have a duty to maintain the health, safety and welfare of employees, members of the public and anyone else who is affected by the business activity.

Health and safety does not need to be complicated. There are simple steps businesses can take to manage their health and safety to comply with the law.

For Information and guidance on these standards visit:

For specific advice visit:

Health and safety enforcement is split between the North Northamptonshire Council and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) dependent upon the type of business activity which is being carried out.

Generally, we are responsible for health and safety in most service and retail premises within North Northamptonshire, such as:

  • offices
  • shops
  • warehouses
  • beauty industry
  • sports and leisure services
  • tyre and exhaust fitters
  • hotels and guest houses
  • consumer services such as laundrettes, churches and banks
  • food premises
  • cinemas
  • residential care homes

The Care Quality Commission investigates and enforces standards expected in nursing homes and hospitals.

The HSE is responsible for:

  • factories chemical plants and power stations
  • building sites
  • garages, car repair and workshops
  • printers
  • hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, dentists and nursing homes
  • schools and universities
  • mines and quarries
  • railways and transport on public roads
  • fairgrounds
  • farms
  • council-owned premises

These lists are not exhaustive. For further information on enforcement view: HSE: Health and Safety (Enforcing Authority) Regulations 1998.

An officer may visit your premises to undertake a routine inspection as part of a Food Hygiene inspection or a specific Health and Safety visit or as a result of a complaint or accident.

The inspector does not need to make an appointment. They have the right to enter and inspect all commercial premises at all reasonable hours, so will often carry out the visit without notice. An officer will show ID to confirm they are employed by the Council on arrival. Occasionally the inspector may make an appointment to ensure that they speak to the manager or particular staff member. This will depend on the circumstances of the visit.

During the visit, the officer will need to see the workplace, work activities and the health and safety management system that the business has in place. This may include any relevant paperwork such as the Health and Safety Policy, Risk Assessments, Accident Book and Maintenance records for equipment.

The officer will always give feedback on a visit. This includes any problems they have identified and will advise on how the problems can be put right and whether you must do it to comply with the law or whether it is good practice.

The officer will either leave a report at the time of the visit or follow the visit with a letter outlining issues found, along with the legislation which is being breached and timescales to rectify problems.

You will be given a reasonable time to address these issues unless there is an immediate risk to health and safety.

There is a legal duty for businesses to report certain types of workplace accidents, work-related illnesses or dangerous occurrences (near misses) in the workplace to the enforcing authority.

These include:

  • all deaths that arise from workplace accidents
  • any major injuries
  • injury or illness of an employee that has resulted in a 7-day or more absence (this includes weekends and rest days)
  • any accident that results in a member of the public having to go to hospital directly from the accident for treatment
  • any specified occupational diseases
  • certain dangerous occurrences (near misses)

For further information on these areas visit HSE: types of reportable incidents (RIDDOR)

The incident must be reported to the Health and Safety Executive as soon as possible or within 15 days for injuries causing over 7 days of employees absence. The report will be forwarded to the enforcing authority for your business.

Fatal or specified accidents or major incidents can be reported by telephone to 0345 300 99 23 (a local rate call), opening hours Monday to Friday 8:30am to 5pm.

You should ensure that the accident is recorded in your accident book. 

Once we have received the report it will be allocated to an officer who will investigate the accident. The level of investigation will depend upon the nature of the accident, the injury or illness sustained, the professional judgement of the investigating officer and the history of the business. The officer may contact you for further information or visit to carry out an investigation.

Further guidance

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material that has been used as a building material since the 1950s due to its insulating properties, fire protection properties and protection against corrosion.

When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. When these fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases such as lung disease, asbestosis and mesothelioma.

These diseases will not affect you immediately; they often take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything. This is why you must protect yourself and others now.

Anyone responsible for maintenance and repairs in non-domestic buildings has a legal ‘duty to manage’ any asbestos in that building.

Before you consider carrying out any building maintenance, repairs or building works at your premises you must undertake a survey to identify the presence of any asbestos and undertake a risk assessment of the likelihood of anyone being exposed to fibres from the materials identified.

You will then have to plan and implement how the risks from these materials will be managed.

For more information visit HSE - Asbestos.

Businesses are required to control exposure to materials in the workplace that cause ill health. This is the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH).

Harmful substances can be present in anything from paints and cleaners to flour dust, solder fume, blood or waste. Ill health caused by these substances used at work is preventable. Many substances can harm health but if used properly the risk is low.

You can prevent or reduce workers' exposure to hazardous substances by:

  • finding out what the health hazards are
  • deciding how to prevent harm to health via a risk assessment
  • providing control measures to reduce harm to health including checking they are used and if appropriate in working order
  • providing information, instruction and training for workers and others
  • providing monitoring and health surveillance if appropriate
  • planning for emergencies

For more information visit the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) - HSE.

Employers have a duty to protect their workers from the health risks of working with display screen equipment (DSE), such as PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Specific regulations apply to workers who use DSE daily, for continuous periods of an hour or more.

Incorrect use of DSE or poorly designed workstations or work environments can lead to pain in necks, shoulders, backs, arms, wrists and hands as well as fatigue and eye strain. The causes may not always be obvious.

Employers must:

  • carry out a workstation assessment
  • look at ways to reduce risks, including making sure workers take regular breaks or, if possible do a different task away from the screen
  • provide an eye test if a worker asks for one
  • provide training to workers

For more information visit Working safely with display screen equipment: Overview - HSE.

Electricity can kill or severely injure people and cause damage to property.

Businesses can take simple precautions when working with or near electricity and electrical equipment to significantly reduce the risk of injury to workers and others.

Electrical equipment and installations are maintained to prevent danger. Depending on the equipment it may be appropriate to carry out Portable Appliance Testing (PAT). There is no legal requirement to do this annually and should be done.

Users of electrical equipment, including portable appliances, should check the equipment each time they use it and remove the equipment from use immediately if:

  • the plug or connector is damaged
  • the cable has been repaired with tape, is not secure, or internal wires are visible etc
  • there are burn marks or stains (suggesting overheating)

Repairs should only be carried out by a competent person, such as an electrician.

For more information visit Electrical safety - HSE

If you have gas in a business you are required by law to ensure that appliances and fittings are installed and maintained by a competent person.

They must be regularly (usually annually) inspected and checked so that you can demonstrate they are being maintained in a safe condition for continued use.

A competent person is someone who is registered with the Gas Safe Register and can service the type of appliances you have in a commercial setting.

If you smell gas, call the free National Grid Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999.

For more information visit HSE - Gas

Legionella is a bacteria which is found within natural water systems such as ponds and rivers. In these sources the bacteria rarely cause problems.

When the bacteria grows in purpose-built water systems, such as commercial and domestic hot and cold water supplies, spa pools, cooling towers and evaporative condensers, the water is kept at a temperature which could encourage the growth of the bacteria. When the water is dispersed there is potential it could be inhaled and result in illnesses such as Legionnaires disease, which is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.

Businesses must carry out a risk assessment to identify any potential sources of legionella and ensure that sufficient control measures are put into place to control the risk.

If you have any cooling towers or evaporative condensers you have a legal duty to notify the Licensing Team. View our cooling towers register for details of premises with cooling towers.

For more information visit HSE: Legionella and Legionnaires' disease.

Employers must protect their workers from the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling in the workplace. Manual handling means transporting or supporting a load by hand or bodily force. It includes lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving loads. A load can be an object, person or animal.

It is possible to reduce the likelihood of injury by avoiding hazardous manual handling tasks entirely, assessing the risk of injury from handling activities that you can't avoid and then looking at methods to make this activity as safe as possible.

For more information visit HSE: Manual handling at work - Musculoskeletal disorders.

Loud noise at work can damage your hearing. This usually happens gradually and it may only be when the damage caused by noise combines with hearing loss due to ageing that people realise how impaired their hearing has become.
People often experience temporary deafness after leaving a noisy place. Although hearing recovers within a few hours, this should not be ignored. It is a sign that if they continue to be exposed to the noise, their hearing could be permanently damaged.

The damage is disabling in that it can stop people from being able to understand speech, keep up with conversations or use the telephone.

Hearing loss is not the only problem. People may develop tinnitus (ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming in the ears), a distressing condition which can lead to disturbed sleep.

Noise at work can interfere with communications and make warnings harder to hear. It can also reduce a person's awareness of his or her surroundings. These factors can lead to safety risks – putting people at risk of injury or death.

As an employer, you must assess and identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to noise so that you can protect the hearing of your employees.

Where the risks are low, the actions you take may be simple and inexpensive, but where risks are high, you should manage them using a prioritised noise-control action plan.

For more information visit HSE: Noise at work – health and safety in the workplace.

Working at height remains one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries. Common cases include falls from ladders and through fragile surfaces. 'Work at height' means work in any place where, if there were no precautions in place, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury (for example a fall through a fragile roof).

Employers can take simple, practical measures to reduce the risk of any of their workers falling while working at height.

You must make sure work is properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people with the skills, knowledge and experience to do the job. You must use the right type of equipment for working at height.

For more information visit HSE: Work at height

Last updated 24 October 2023