Health and Safety

Article modified: August 2021, Author:

Some Issues

This incorporates some basics from Sandy Adirondack’s legal page:

Health and safety are important, and the standard of care imposed by legislation is pretty much the same regardless of the size of the organisation. All organisations must carry out a risk assessment identifying the risks to employees, other workers, clients, members of the public and anyone who comes onto the organisation’s premises or uses its services. They must then draw up a health and safety scheme setting out a programme to reduce the risks, or to minimise the negative impact if they do happen. The risk assessment and scheme must be in writing if the employer has more than four employees. For these purposes, it is probably best to count any volunteer doing more than a few hours a week as an employee.

Where an employee is under 18, the employer has to carry out a specific assessment taking into account the fact that young people may be inexperienced, immature and/or less aware of risks than adults. These requirements are set out in the Health and Safety (Young Persons) Regulations 1997.

Employers are required to display a Health and Safety information poster prominently, or alternatively circulate an equivalent leaflet to all employees (which should be extended to include regular volunteers) – see HSE entry below. The ‘new’ version of this (published October 1999) must now be in place. They must also register their existence and the nature of their activities with the ‘relevant enforcing authority’. Unless you are involved in manufacturing or provide a service such as television repair, this should be the local authority environment health department. Don’t forget you also need Employers Liability insurance.

Management Committee members (which includes trustees, board members etc.) equate to company directors, and have serious H&S duties. See the Leading Health and Safety at Work section of HSE website.

Most organisations need Public Liability insurance too.


Repetitive Strain Injury aka Upper Limb Disorder (HSE terminology). An estimated 4.2 million working days are lost in Britain each year due to about half a million upper limb or neck disorder sufferers, with each employee taking an average of 13 days off work, says HSE.

  • There is an RSI Action.
  • HSE guidance on the best ways to prevent and manage RSI and similar conditions, updated Feb 02. Upper Limb Disorders in the Workplace, ISBN 0-7176-1978-8, price £9.50.

Food Hygiene

Food hygiene legislation governs the handling, storage and preparation of food on a premises in the course of a business. Occasional sales of cakes, pickles etc for charity shouldn’t be caught by this but it would still be a good idea to follow the associated guidelines where possible. Should be available on Food Standards Agency.

Connected but covered by separate legislation (Food Labelling Regulations 1996) food labelling is not required for food that isn’t prepared as part of a business.

Health and Safety Agencies

Health and Safety Executive

The HSE is the government agency concerned with enforcing regulations in Britain, but also provides a lot of guidance.  Its main site isn’t bad, and they have a number of reasonably well put together micro-sites, including:

Small Business pages Largely applicable to most new (and existing) voluntary organisations, a good starting point and relatively digestible.

Workers web page.

Their material has generally improved a lot, although it can still be a bit heavy. From 2009, many previously priced publications are available for free download, some others can be ordered in single copies free, and there’s loads of useful resources on the website. Also see HSE Bookshop, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 2WA, phone 01787 881165. Leaflets to get include:

  • Health and Safety Law, ref 0717617025, which is the information leaflet you can (and should) circulate to staff (Welsh version ref 0717617408).
  • The OfficeWise leaflet takes a little while to download, due to cartoon graphics, but gives a feel for what you need to think about.
  • We suggest getting the First Aid guidance and Everyone’s Guide to RIDDOR (basically notification of accidents) for reference.

Other relevant publications worth looking out for – please note that we haven’t checked what is available since HSE made many publications free to download.

  • ‘Charities and Voluntary Workers: a guide to health and safety at work’.
  • Fire Safety: An employer’s guide.
  • Basic Advice on First Aid at Work and First Aid at Work: Your questions answered (INDG214L).
  • Guidance for home care service providers: Handling home care: Achieving safe, efficient and positive outcomes for care workers and clients. They say that this is “one of the highest risk areas for back injury”. Union GMB says “Care sector employers must ensure that they use the HSE guide to control stress, take measures to alleviate manual handling problems and ensure a safe working environment”. While aimed at care service managers and others assessing mobility assistance risks, it will also be of interest to care workers. There is also Health and Safety in Care Homes.

Health and Safety Northern Ireland

See the small business advisory service of the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (was a separate website, Health and Safety Works NI). The publication ‘Charity and Voluntary Organisations – a health and safety guide’ (new 2014) seems to have disappeared, Dec. 2016.

Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland is the regulatory body for the country.

Useful Resources

Directory of Social Change run some related training courses.

In Scotland, Healthy Working Lives was set up to address the needs of small and medium enterprises, which includes most voluntary organisations. Occupational Health and Safety Adviceline on 0800 019 2211. Resources section.

The government’s Gov.Uk Health and safety at work pages.

British Safety Council Produce publications, will audit your premises etc, membership available. Phone 020 8741 1231, email:

Chancellor Formecon for health and safety forms and checklists.

See Running an Event page for info on The Good Practice Safety Guide for small events and sporting events on highways, roads, and in public places.

London Hazards Centre Free advice service for Londoners, particularly aimed at community groups and workplace health and safety reps. Also information resources (some available to members over the web), training, inspections, research. Hampstead Town Hall Centre, 213 Haverstock Hill, London, NW3 4QP, phone 020 7794 5999, email:

Institution of Occupational Safety & Health The professional body for safety and health practitioners. Register of consultants, information, training.

Labour Research Department, the trade union research organisation, produces a monthly health and safety bulletin Safety Rep. For further details, phone Paul Stephenson or Andrea Oates on 020 7902 9826, email:

The TUC has set up a health and safety campaign for young workers, with an advice leaflet, Work Safe. Know you Rights phone line: 0870 600 7882. The TUC Health and Safety web pages has lots of material – under Workplace guidance. You can register for a weekly Risks e-bulletin, although the VolResource email newsletter should extract all the relevant items. The Hazards at Work Manual gives very comprehensive coverage – available for order from TUC Publications. General contact for TUC Publications, Congress House, Great Russell St, London, WC1B 3LS.

Hazards magazine is TUC supported, with various news and factsheets available from the web site

Safe Workers is another site providing information around workplace safety, although the lack of information about their authors and expertise doesn’t generate trust in its material.

Various publishers have Health and Safety manuals. Gee’s Health and Safety FactFinder includes CD-ROM updated 6 times a year, phone helpline, email alert on news items, bimonthly newsletter. Not cheap – £700 odd – but should cover everything you need. See contact info on Admin page.

First Aid Training (and kits) can be sourced from a number of charities, such as British Red Cross, St Johns Ambulance.

Working Conditions

Some of these could fall under Health and Safety, but may be more about establishing a good working environment than a ‘legal minimum’:

Temperature There is a minimum (16 degrees Celsius), but no maximum. However, hot and sticky workers are not going to be happy or productive. Possible remedies: fans, blinds (suitably adjustable), cooled water dispenser.

Smoking Indoor smoking bans have been around for a while now, so the websites set up at their introduction are largely retired. Try these links:

Smells Some people are very sensitive, for one reason or another, to chemicals in perfumes. Bans have already happened in the US, under disability legislation. Could your organisation have an issue?

Disabled Access Are there simple things you can do to improve accessibility? See Building Management section. Organisations are now obliged to consider access issues when providing services, although practicability of making changes (including cost where there are limited funds) should be taken into account. A one-off funding application for widening access is often attractive to charitable trusts, and also some statutory funders.

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