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Health and Safety at work - Self Employed Workers

In 2011 a review of Health and Safety enforcement in Great Britain recommended that those self-employed whose work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others should be exempt from health and safety law. This recommendation was accepted by Government.

So, as of October 2015, if you are self-employed and your work activity poses no potential risk to the health and safety of other workers or members of the public, then health and safety law will not apply to you.

It is estimated that health and safety law will no longer apply to 1.7 million self-employed people like novelists, journalists, graphic designers, accountants, financial advisors and dress-makers, where their work does not pose a risk to the health and safety of others.  However, there are many other professions where being self employed does not exempt you from Health and Safety law, especially if you are self employed but work in a high risk setting.

What the law says

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (General Duties of Self-Employed Persons) (Prescribed Undertakings) Regulations 2015  says:

•if your work activity is specifically mentioned in the regulations above

•or if your work activity poses a risk to the health and safety of others, then the law applies to you

What is meant by ‘self-employed’?

For health and safety law purposes, ‘self-employed’ means that you do not work under a contract of employment and work only for yourself.

If you’re self-employed and employ others the law will apply to you. You may be self-employed for tax purposes, but this may not be so for health and safety. This is a complex area and HMRC have produced employment status guidance.

What is a ‘risk to the health and safety of others’?

This is the likelihood of someone else being harmed or injured (eg members of the public, clients, contractors etc) as a consequence of your work activity.

Most self-employed people will know if their work poses a risk to the health and safety of others. You must consider the work you are doing and judge for yourself if it creates a risk or not.

For example if you operate a fairground ride for the public to use then your work could affect the health and safety of other people and you must take appropriate steps to protect them as the law will apply to you.

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