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safety at work


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Every employer has a common-law duty to take reasonable care for his employees' health, safety, and welfare at work: he may be sued in the courts for damages if an employee is injured through the employer's negligence or failure to observe the safety regulations. The employer cannot contract out of this liability and, under the Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969, must insure against his liability for employees' injuries and diseases sustained or contracted at work. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 further requires employers to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that their working methods, equipment, premises, and environment are safe and to give such training, information, and supervision as will ensure their employees' health and safety (see Health and Safety Executive). Anyone employing more than five persons must maintain a written statement of his general policy concerning his employees' health and safety (dealing, for example, with safety rules and protective clothing) and must keep them informed of it. He must also give relevant information to the safety representatives of his employees' trade unions and establish a safety committee where appropriate.

The Employment Act 1989 contains legislation for the protection of female workers. It is prohibited to employ women in a factory within four weeks of childbirth; to employ women in a range of processes involving lead or lead compounds; and to employ women in a range of processes in the pottery industry. There are also restrictions on women working on ships and aeroplanes during pregnancy.

Employees also have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety, for example by complying with safety regulations and using protective equipment supplied to them. Employers and employees who fail to comply with the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 face prosecution in the criminal courts. An employee dismissed for health and safety reasons is under certain circumstances regarded as having been unfairly dismissed. It is also regarded as automatically unfair to select an employee for redundancy on certain grounds connected with health and safety.

Subjects: Law.


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