The law affects us all as individuals, but its biggest impact is arguably on businesses. As if running a company wasn’t difficult enough in itself, entrepreneurs must consider the various laws, regulations and guidelines that influence their day-to-day operations.
Most of these rules are designed to protect staff and visitors from exposure to controllable risks. As such, they are enforced strictly by the relevant authorities and should be adhered to at all times. After all, failure to do so could result in financial penalties, or even imprisonment. It’s worth, then, getting up to speed with all the relevant rules and regulations to ensure you don’t fall foul of the law.
Up until the late 1990s, the world wasn’t fully aware of just how dangerous exposure to asbestos could be. As such, asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) can today be found in a huge number of buildings across the UK, including homes, schools and offices.
When you consider the fact that exposure to this substance causes around 5,000 workers’ deaths each year, it’s easy to understand why the government introduced the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.
These regulations detail business owners’ legal duties, while also offering practical guidance on how to deal with the presence of asbestos on commercial premises. The full document can be found on the government’s website, but in short, the legislation requires you to do the following:
– Identify and keep up-to-date records of the location and condition of all ACMs on your premises
– Assess, manage and control all asbestos-related risks during building maintenance projects
– Ensure all work involving asbestos is carried out by licensed contractors
– Provide the appropriate training for anyone liable to be exposed to asbestos fibres while working
Fire safety at work
Fire can be a danger pretty much anywhere, and it’s one that must be taken seriously. Government data shows that local authority fire and rescue services attended 21,700 fires on non-residential premises between April 2013 and March 2014. Whilst this is far from ideal, the figure has fallen from 40,400 over the past decade, largely because of tighter regulations.
At present, businesses in England and Wales must abide by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which was implemented in October 2006 in response to calls for the simplification of fire legislation in the UK. The Order places the responsibility of certain fire safety duties on one person, usually the employer or business owner.
These duties involve everything from ensuring general fire precautions are satisfactory to conducting fire risk assessments. Adequate safety training must also be given to employees.
If the company has five or more employees, the Order states that all risk assessments should be recorded too, so be sure to take this into account.
Legionnaires’ disease, Lochgoilhead fever and Pontiac fever are all conditions caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophila, commonly known as ‘Legionella’. This, like fire and asbestos, is a real concern for businesses, and the risks must be managed.
While Legionella is most commonly present in natural water sources like lakes, rivers and reservoirs, it can also be found in man-made water systems. This includes the cooling towers installed in offices and other workplaces up and down the country.
As an employer or building owner, you’re responsible for the health and safety of staff and visitors, and must take the right actions – as outlined in the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) – to control the risks in your own water system.
This ACOP comes in the form of a publication called Legionnaires’ disease: The control of Legionella bacteria in water systems (L8). The fourth and latest edition of the document offers guidelines and advice to help business owners comply with the legionella-related legal duties outlined in The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999 (COSHH).
On top of all this, the Notification of Cooling Towers and Evaporative Condensers Regulations 1992 require companies to inform their local authority in writing of the presence of any cooling towers or evaporative condensers.
The first step to managing all of these problems effectively is to identify and assess the risks. From here, you can determine exactly how you plan to deal with them. While it’s a legal obligation to carry out proper risk assessments for the hazards above, business owners are able to complete this task themselves. However, with the company’s reputation and finances on the line, not to mention workers’ health, enlisting the help of a professional is certainly the best way to go.