Guide

Set up a health and safety management system

Key health and safety management legal obligations

You have a legal responsibility for the health and safety of everyone affected by your business. This includes employees, subcontractors, visitors, customers and even members of the public affected by your products or services. You are also responsible for the environmental impact of your business.

Carrying out regular risk assessments is a key part of identifying and controlling health and safety and environmental hazards. See health and safety risk assessment and carry out an environmental review of your business.

An effective health and safety management system can help you to meet these and other legal obligations. For more detailed information on key requirements, read what you need to do about health and safety.

Health and safety policy

You must also have a health and safety policy. If your business has five or more employees, the policy must be in writing. See write a health and safety policy for your business

Your policy should cover three key areas:

  • your commitment to managing health and safety and what you want to achieve
  • how you organise management and who is responsible for doing what
  • practical arrangements, such as safety procedures and staff training

The policy itself should include details of how you will achieve your aims. For example, your policy might include a commitment to reduce accidents and practical steps to help with this.

You also need to ensure that employees understand the policy and follow the right procedures. See provide health and safety training and information.

Liability insurance

An effective health and safety management system can help you to meet these and other legal obligations. For more detailed information on key requirements, read what you need to do about health and safety.

If you have employees, you must also have employers' liability insurance and be insured for a least £5 million to enable you to meet the cost of damages and legal fees should any employee be injured or made ill as a result of working for you. However, you should look carefully at your risks and liabilities and consider whether you need insurance cover of more than £5 million. In practice, most insurers offer cover of at least £10 million. Public liability insurance covers you for similar costs as a result of a claim from a member of the public. To find out more about insurance for your business, browse insurance.

Keeping informed

As part of an effective health and safety management system, you should identify and comply with the laws that affect your business. There may be special rules for your business - for example, if you work with potentially dangerous substances.

You also need to be able to keep up to date with any changes in legislation. Your trade association may publish updates or you may want to take advice. The Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) provide information on health and safety legislation.