The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (General Duties of Self-Employed Persons) (Prescribed Undertakings) Regulations 2015 come into force from 1 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.
The regulations stem from the Löfstedt report - an independent review of health and safety law that was published in 2011. Known also as the ‘Reclaiming Health and Safety for All Review,’ its aim was to reduce the burden of health and safety regulation on business.
One of its key recommendations was that self-employed people whose work activities pose no risk to others should be exempt from health and safety law.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimate that health and safety law will no longer apply to around 1.7 million self-employed people such as novelists, journalists, graphic designers, accountants, confectioners, financial advisors and online traders.
The change to the law is also expected to save self-employed people in the UK an estimated £4.7m over the next 10 years.
Many, including unions and safety campaigners say the regulations will cause increased costs and risk and create confusion and further bureaucracy for the self-employed.
At present, all self-employed people in the UK have a legal responsibility under both the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to protect themselves and others from risks to their health and safety “so far as is reasonably practicable,” regardless of what kind of work is undertaken or risks created.
What does the law say?
For health and safety law purposes, ‘self-employed’ means you only work for yourself and do not you work under a contract of employment.
If you are self-employed but employ others then the law will apply to you. In addition, if your work is specifically mentioned in the regulations and deemed high risk such as, farming and forestry, construction, gas work, railways employment, work with asbestos or genetically modified organisms, then the law will also apply to you.
What is a ‘risk to the health and safety of others’?
This is the likelihood of someone such as a client, contractor or member of the public suffering an injury as a consequence of your work activity.
The guidance states: “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.”
According to the HSE, most self-employed people will know if their work presents a risk to the safety of others and it is up to individuals to judge for themselves whether their work is particularly hazardous and creates a risk to others.
John Reeder is a Senior Personal Injury Lawyer at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
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